A Celebration of Leadership

This year's annual Leadership Dinner was held April 23

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A Celebration of Leadership
Sandra Espinal, coordinator for Student Leadership Programs, with distinguished members of the Leadership Institute staff at the 2019 Leadership Institute Dinner.
Victoria Gasper, Staff Writer

The 2019 Leadership Institute Dinner was held at Galloping Hill Caterers on April 23 from 6 to 10 p.m. This event celebrated a year of hard work performed by members of the various leadership groups which include Transition to Kean (T2K) Bronze Leadership, Silver Leadership, Gold Leadership and Platinum Leadership, as well as the L.E.A.D. Program, which stands for Leadership, Education and Development. This event also recognized those graduating this year and those with GPAs over 3.45 with distinguished awards and various accolades.

The night began with a welcome from Sandra Espinal, the coordinator of Student Leadership Programs. Espinal introduced members of the Leadership Institute staff, beginning with Graduate Assistant Beyanka Wheatley, who is also the Platinum Leadership and Co-L.E.A.D. Program coordinator. Next was Gold Leadership, Leader 2 Leader and Co-L.E.A.D. Program coordinator as well as graduating scholar for this year, Tibian Hassan. Then, T2K Bronze Leadership Program coordinators, Tiffany Anele and Breanna Hernandez, were introduced. Finally, Silver Leadership Program coordinators Catarina Cordeiro and Anthony Sanchez, who is also a Leader 2 Leader mentor. Espinal also acknowledged some of the guests in the room, including Alex Louis, keynote speaker Patricia C. Bridges and Scott Snowden, director of the Center for Leadership and Service. Espinal thanked Snowden profusely for all he does for the Leadership Program, crediting him with approving all of the events that the Leadership Programs participate in and host.

Mr. Scott Snowden, Director of the Center for Leadership and Service, and the 2019 Leadership Institute Dinner.

"It's so easy to say yes because it's always for you," Snowden said to the students, "It's always for the bigger picture and the greater benefit, and it's never an unreasonable request."

Snowden told a story of how the Leadership Institute began ten years ago with a small group called Hunger for Art, which planned to raise $200 by selling the students' art but ended up raising over $1,100. He also remarked that this is the largest year for the program so far with over 134 students completing the program, reminiscing on how the very first Bronze celebration was in the Greek Lounge and how now the amount of students barely fit into a main hall of Galloping Hill.

"True leaders know that you don't stop being a leader. You must empower others to be great leaders, too," Snowden said. "You have to make sure that there is a lifeline of leaders after you leave. Nothing will destroy an organization more than a leader who does not empower others."

After Snowden spoke, Bridges took the stage to give her keynote speech. Bridges, a school counselor at Union High School, has very personal ties to Kean University. She began here as a freshman in 1981 and ended up transferring to the School of the Arts in North Carolina. However, she came back four years after leaving to work in Kean's Admission's Office. In her keynote speech, she urged students to be the person for the younger generation who reaches back for them and pulls them forward to make them leaders as well.

"All my life, I wanted to be in the back," Bridges said. "I wanted people to see me and acknowledge me, but at the same time teachers and leaders would always pull me to the front. They would always see something and pull me out from among the crowd to give me the start I needed to have in leadership."

Ms. Patricia C. Bridges, school counselor at Union High School and keynote speaker for the 2019 Leadership Institute Dinner.

"Being a great leader is all about having a genuine willingness and a true commitment to leading others to achieve a common vision and goals that they have through positive influence," Bridges said, quoting John C. Maxwell.

Bridges called upon students to work against those who have a negative influence on all that people say and do in service and volunteerism for others to bring more positivity to the world.

"Leaders are not born," Bridges said. "Leaders are made, but it needs to be a seed in us that someone else plants."

Agreeing with what Snowden said, Bridges charged students to "sew into others' lives."

"Go spend time and impart to them what you have learned over the years," said Bridges.

Bridges calls students to be unafraid of chasing after tasks, to be transparent about who one truly is and to fail and to do what others have failed at. She mentioned the students at Union High School in the leadership department there and how they often look to her for guidance, but also how they are beginning to look to each other to gain expertise and to be enriched.

"Passion is what you need," Bridge said. "Passion to do, passion to go, passion to follow even as you are leading. Following is part of leadership, and we need you to continue to be selfish in a selfless world, to see people and be radical in your compassion for them. We especially need you to continue to reach back and find someone that you can pull up and believe in the same way someone once believed in you."

After a short dinner break, the awards ceremony commenced with the recognition of scholars, those with a GPA between 3.45 and 3.84 or 3.85 and 4.0, presented by Snowden. Espinal then presented a few gifts to students who will be graduating this year with either a medal, a cord, and/or a stole for their academic and leadership success.

Graduating scholar Ms. Tibian Hassan, Leader 2 Leader Peer Mentor Program, Silver Leadership Program and Co-L.E.A.D. Program Coordinator presenting awards at the 2019 Leadership Institute Dinner.

Next was the Star Awards recognizing one member of each leadership level for their spirits of excellence, including Bronze Leadership award winner Jenia Vega, Silver Leadership award winner Desiree Lucas, Gold Leadership award winner Larry Bonaparte, Platinum Leadership award winner Lucero Lopez and Leader 2 Leader Mentor award winner Angelica Prysak. After this, Espinal came up to acknowledge two Platinum Leadership student scholars who have been with the program for all four years of their college career and will be graduating this year, Leader 2 Leader Mentor Dawn Demarco and Hassan.

Ms. Sandra Espinal, Coordinator of Student Leadership Programs, with Tibian Hassan and Dawn Demarco, distinguished Platinum graduating scholars at the 2019 Leadership Institute Dinner.

Later, one representative from each Leadership Program came up to the podium to present what each group had been working on for the past year, such as Silver Leadership's Fashion Show which raised $1,830.70 for the Children's Specialized Hospital, Gold Leadership's work with Ricky's Compass which raised over $1,282 for those struggling with severe mental illnesses and Platinum Leadership's Youth Leadership Conference with. Bridges and the Leadership students at Union High School. Colette Lausier, a representative from L.E.A.D., then came up to talk about the community service work that the group had done, which included raising $186 for the American Humane Society of Newark, raising $150 for the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter and volunteering at Christine's Kitchen in Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, all of which where done to enrich the five realms of the students' emotional intelligence.

After the presentation of more certificates and photos, Espinal closed the event by thanking everyone for coming to celebrate the Leadership family that has been made over the past year.

"Leadership to me really has been a family and a bond that's unbreakable where you can be sure that everyone will be there for each other regardless of where life takes us or what our circumstances become," said Evrim Akman, Platinum Program member, scholar, Leader 2 Leader Mentor and soon-to-be graduate majoring in K-8 Math and Special Education.

about the author

Victoria Gasper, Staff Writer

Victoria Gasper joined The Cougar's Byte as a staff writer in March 2019.