FCHS students flourish at William and Mary

Contributed by 
Faith Shields

Student officers for the Fluvanna County High School Student Government Association (SGA), and their mentor, David Small, recently attended a leadership session at the College of William and Mary. They collaborated with head educators Dr. Drew Stelljes and Dr. Kelly Crace, a nationally-recognized leader in health and wellness, to uncover a new understanding of what leadership entails. Stelljes and Crace regularly engage with students to teach them about authentic excellence, and how to understand values based leadership.

The student officers said the trip was memorable and left them feeling inspired to better themselves. “I think we all left with some great advice to use in our own lives and to pass on to our SGA classmates,“ said Class Council Ambassador Jenna Carel. They all agreed that the William and Mary student leaders created an environment for the officers that made it easy to have knowledgeable conversations. Carel especially felt that “everyone that we met was extremely kind and welcoming.” SGA Vice President Bethany Cheripka also said that William and Mary created a wonderful space for communication, and that she felt “enlightened and in deep thought” after the conversations. “It made me rethink some aspects of my life that were bothersome to me. I want to give other students the opportunity to grow in the way I did,” she said.

At William and Mary, student leaders participate in an Authentic Excellence Initiative, a multi-layered program that promotes the concept of flourishing and having resilience. They explore the differences between fear-based learning and authentic excellence, discuss how to improve personal productivity with fulfillment and resilience, and study the plateau effect. This effect is when a learner, no matter their efforts, happens to stop making any visible progress. The program has three levels and is designed to increase student understanding with hands-on learning and open communication with peers.

A group of 34 Fluvanna SGA students will return to William and Mary in April to dive deeper into mindfulness and discuss the concept of flourishing, which is defined as growing or developing in a vigorous way. They plan to engage with Crace, Stelljes, and the students at William and Mary, to bring back a toolbox of leadership skills to Fluvanna. The SGA students hope to encourage their peer students to practice positive thinking with their classes, revamp how they see themselves in athletics and extracurricular activities, and have a key focus on flourishing in one’s environment.

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