Blue Hen Leadership Program

Students and staff from the University of Delaware’s Blue Hen Leadership program partnered with the Red Clay School District to present the inaugural Discovering Voices Leadership Summit on November 8. Held at Cab Calloway School for the Arts and Wilmington Charter School, the summit included 300 students selected from high schools and colleges in the town.

Patrick Genau, a red clay teacher and UD alumnus, first conceptualized the summit as a way to show his students the importance of leadership. “I wanted our students to see leaders their same age and have a visual representation of their peers leading and educating,” he said. “I presented the summit as an opportunity to teach important life skills in an engaging way that will benefit not only the individual, but also the school and the community. “

Genau decided the best way to do it was to team up with his alma mater. He enlisted the help of Susan Luchey, Associate Director of Student Centers for Student Leadership Development, and Nat Measley, Associate Faculty Member of Horn Entrepreneurship and Founder of Your Culture Story. The trio started planning in May 2021 and worked for the next seven months to develop a schedule and coordinate keynote speakers, sponsors and school administrators.

“The event was imagined and designed to have a positive impact on the youth in our community,” Measley said. “This is the main reason we wanted to get involved.

Luchey used his personal connections to secure speakers Bryan Terrell Clark, a Broadway star known for playing the role of George Washington in “Hamilton,” and Justin Jones-Fosu, author and leadership educator. “Terrell Clark was a keynote speaker at our 2020 Change Makers Leadership Conference and we have a collaboration through a nonprofit that he co-founded,” Luchey said. “Jones-Fosu is a former student of mine at the University of Baltimore.”

Terrell Clark shared his experience of overcoming obstacles to become an artist and activist, and Jones-Fosu advised students to find their own voice and walk at their own pace. The two speakers sent the unified message to the students to pursue their passions and stay true to themselves.

In addition to the keynote speakers, eight members of the Blue Hen Leadership Program presented concurrent workshops on two topics: “Leadership, Identity and Values” and “A Model of Problem Solving”. BHLP presenters included seniors Jonte Desire, Cullen Kisner, Jose Manuel Lanzona, Lindsay Marrione, Shannon Murray and Elizabeth Swanson, as well as freshmen Samantha Carrella and Brian Chansky.

“You can’t be really effective as a leader until you understand yourself and take your lead in everyday life,” said Marrione. “Therefore, I spent a lot of time making the students understand the different parts of their identity, as well as identifying the things that they like. “

Marrione said she also helped the students understand the concept of SOLVE, which stands for “Define Roles and Goals, Describe the Problem, List the Strategies, Strive for Consensus and Evaluate the Results”. The students learned this method and formed teams to take on the challenge of building the tallest free-standing tower of raw spaghetti and duct tape, topped with a marshmallow.

“Basically this is a process that people can go through when facing any challenge, especially in a group setting,” said Marrione. “Using the SOLVE process, the students found the best way to build their towers while dealing with each other’s different ideas. “

The summit also included a ‘True Colors’ personality and leadership assessment led by Luchey, as well as a presentation by a panel of UD alumni and a current student: the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl champion. Gino Gradkowski, social entrepreneur and mentor April Singleton, founder of WilmInvest Bryce Fender, life coach Steve Bowman and senior and entrepreneur UD Jonte Desire.

Marrione said the importance of seeing her classmate and BHLP member on the panel. “A lot of people in this phase of life feel limited in what they are able to do, but Jonte is proof that age doesn’t have to keep you from achieving a goal,” said Marrione. “It is a common belief, especially among young people, that leadership has to do with a position or title that is given to someone. This is not true; anyone can be a leader.

Genau noted the impact of the summit on its students across the district. “The students engaged and openly participated in the discussions, interacting with other leaders from different school buildings that they had never met before,” he said. “Many students ask how to be nominated next year and say how exciting it was to have a non-traditional learning experience. ”

Participants were encouraged to use what they learned at the conference to create an action plan to make positive change in their school or community. Measley said he hopes this summit continues and paves the way for similar programming.

“A small team of us have bigger dreams for the summit and leadership training,” he said. “We hope to make the program stronger and better every year. Then we hope to bring it to all other schools in Delaware and beyond. “

Kevin E. Boling