Earlier this month, hundreds of high school students from Pinellas County gathered at the USF St. Petersburg campus to participate in a first-of-its-kind Student Leadership Summit.
The diverse group of students from each of the 17 Pinellas County public high schools participated in fun and engaging sessions that challenged them to become advocates in their schools. Activities included a team Lego building competition, brainstorming solutions to school challenges and for some a first-hand look at campus life.
“When students come on a field trip like this, they’re on this beautiful campus, and they’re learning,” said Kevin Hendrick, superintendent of Pinellas County Schools. “We want this to be an experience that is great for them, but more importantly, we want them to develop their student voice and bring it back to their school.”
The March 9 event was the third in a series of summits held on the USF St. Petersburg campus. The first two were held in January and February for elementary and middle school students. The summits are part of a collaboration between USF’s Pinellas Access to Higher Education (PATHe) program and Pinellas County Schools.
PATHe aims to increase the number of Pinellas County residents receiving education beyond high school. At the same time, the district hopes to inspire leadership in its schools while promoting continued education after graduation.
“I think this is a unique campus that offers so many great opportunities, and now even more with being a consolidated institution with One USF,” said Carolina Nutt, director of COMPASS Student Experience on the USF St. Petersburg campus. “Students often get overwhelmed thinking about college elsewhere and being far away from families. But to know they have a great opportunity here makes them excited about the possibility of going to college.”
During the summit, students participated in break-out sessions focused on listening, learning and leadership.
In the listening session, students completed a Lego challenge where they had to listen to hints from their teammates and then build a design based on the information they received. In the learning session, students went on a scavenger hunt around campus. The tour included a walk along the waterfront and stops at the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, USF bookstore, The Nest Dining Hall and rooms inside Osprey Suites.
For the main leadership session, students asked their classmates questions about what they would like to see changed in their school. Then, they were challenged to devise a plan to solve the problem.
“Those questions will look very different from elementary to middle to high school,” Hendrick added. “They could involve the cafeteria, student clubs or parent involvement. It depends on the school. They’re developing those ideas during the summit and will take them back to implement in the future.”
Overall, more than one 1,000 elementary, middle and high school students participated in these leadership summits on the USF St. Petersburg campus.