Grieder, Kazmierczak attend leadership conference 2008.07.30

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Four days after the conference had ended, Nathan Grieder and Leslie Kazmierzak were still thinking about their week at Hillsdale College. It completely dominated their thoughts. Their friends were growing weary of the tales.

The two were nominated by Morenci teacher Deb Hojnacki to attend the Civitan Youth Leadership and Diversity Conference at Hillsdale College. They agreed to go, but their early assessment wasn’t too encouraging.

“I remember you saying that it was going to be boring,” Leslie said to Nate last week, “and I agreed. It seemed like a lot of people who wanted to be leaders.”

And then something happened, something that turned what looked like a long, tedious week into a life-changing experience.

It was an amazing time, Leslie said, but still, it’s something that’s difficult to put into words.

But for anyone willing to listen, they’ll try to explain themselves.

More than four dozen high school students converged at Hillsdale College, some coming from as far away as Texas and a large contingent from Canada.

The week kicked off with a guest speaker who challenged the students to think about what they want to do to change the world. Any little effort can make a difference, they were told. Simply pick a path and go with it.

Then came a series of team-building exercises and small group discussions, with constantly changing membership that allowed everybody to become familiar with most everyone else.

The first day, the Canadians tended to hang out together, the Indiana delegates stayed together, etc. After that, everyone started to mix and by the end of the week, no lines existed. It wasn’t always an easy path to take.

“Everything you did pushed you out of your regular comfort zone,” Nate said.

One exercise split delegates into pairs. No. 1 would read a question and No. 2 would respond by talking about themselves. No. 1 remained silent, a constant listener.

Then the discussions began—very deep discussions—that addressed anything and everything, Nate said. Religion, gay marriage and gay rights, addiction, premarital sex, voting and the drinking age, global warming, and on and on.

“We learned to attack the idea, not the person,” said Nate, who will be a senior at Morenci Area High School. “No concept is wrong.”

Everyone at the conference has a different background and opinions vary. The conference isn’t designed to change opinions and beliefs, but to solidify a person’s idea.

“A lot of things I didn’t have a strong opinion on,” Nate said, “but when I walked out, I knew exactly where I stood.”

In the Global Village exercise, the world population of 6.7 billion was divided up among the participants to give a representation of how many are Asian, for example, how many are literate, how many will get food today—even though there’s enough food to go around.

To “close the circle,” everyone represented only themselves. How many of you are males? An easy beginning. How many of you are Catholics? How many have experimented with drugs? How many have ever contemplated suicide?

“It showed you there are other people in common with you,” Nate said. “Everybody comes from different circumstances, but we all share a lot of the same experiences.”

“It made me feel a lot closer to the other people,” added Leslie, a Morenci sophomore.

The problem for the two students last week was dealing with the withdrawal. The new friends have all returned home and Morenci’s two delegates are feeling a little alone. Leslie says she often feels like an idiot telling people how amazing it was. She came home and immediately set up a Facebook account for the conference delegates and staff members.

Every delegate wants to return next summer as a staff member, but of course there aren’t enough openings.

What about back at home? Couldn’t some of the exercises and experiences be replicated here? The two students are doubtful about that.

“Everybody thinks they already know you,” Leslie said.

At the conference, everyone started as strangers and the relationships grew. It’s not the same with established friends.

Nate believes he’s going to speak much more honestly now and he’s not sure how that will be accepted.

Reunions are already in the planning stage for delegates living in the same region of the country, and Leslie continues to have some deep discussions with her new friends—both on the telephone and on the internet.

No matter what might evolve in the future among the participants, they’re all certain of one thing: They’ve never before experienced anything like this.

“It was the best week of my life,” Nate said. “It sounds goofy and weird, but I will leave it at that.”

  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.grieders
    ONE-TWO PUNCH—Morenci’s Griffin Grieder saved his best for last, running his fastest time ever in the 110-meter high hurdles at the state finals Saturday in Grand Rapids to finish first in the state in Div. IV. His brother Luke, a junior (right), claimed the state runner-up spot. Bulldog junior Bailee Dominique placed seventh in the 100-meter dash.
  • Front.sidewalk
    MORENCI senior class president Mikayla Price leads the way Sunday afternoon from the Church of the Nazarene to the United Methodist Church for the baccalaureate ceremony. Later in the day, 39 members of the senior class received diplomas in the high school gymnasium.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2017