Four Bruin athletes, all juniors, attended the 2018 IHSAA Student Leadership Conference held annually at Plainfield High School. This year’s conference was held on Tuesday, June 19. The four were Bethany Elkins, Nick Otwinowski, Jaden Reum, and Natalie Thurman. Athletic Director Tony Uggen attended the conference as well.
“This is a great experience for future leaders to meet other students who are driven to be leaders in their schools and communities. Approximately 1100 kids attended. I appreciate our kids willingness to take a day out of their busy summers to attend this event. I think they all took something away from the conference that they can share with their teammates and peers,” Uggen shared. “We were also one of just 62 schools honored for being a United Champions Together school. All Bruins should be proud of that accomplishment as the program is student driven. It was the third straight year for the Bruins to be recognized,” Uggen added.
Bethany Elkins, who attended for the second consecutive year, recalled, “My breakout sessions were very different from last year. My first one was about captains and if you are elected one, how you can be an efficient leader on your team. I learned that instead of starting with what you want to accomplish you should start with why you want to accomplish it. Then you can move on to how and then what. My second session was about the Special Olympics. We watched a video about who founded the Olympics and why she did what she did. I learned that individuals with intellectual disabilities were excluded from ‘normal people.’ They were institutionalized most of the time. Eunice Kennedy Shriver started by allowing this group of people to play sports in her back yard. This eventually ended up starting the Special Olympics.” She continued, “My final session was about goal setting. We started by writing down what we wanted to do as a career. Then we wrote down colleges we were interested in, and colleges that would be best for what we wanted to do. Then we wrote down predictions of the average GPA, SAT, and ACT test scores to get into these colleges. Lastly, we looked up the actual averages. Writing these things are helpful because we can actually see how to do it instead of just talking about it. This will help motivate ourselves. In conclusion, this conference was very beneficial again, and I learned many things that I can use in life.”
Jaden Reum commented, “This was a great experience and I learned a lot. There are a lot of great acronyms that we should use. There’s F.I.S.T which stands for Finish It Strong Together. This was probably the thing that hit me the most. Also, there was the statement that we need to get more commitment to our sports.”
Natalie Thurman shared, “At the conference I leaned that you never know what people are going through. They could have a terrible home life and school is there only escape, so be nice to everyone and make school a safe place. I also learned that having a straight forward and well thought out future plan will make the future seem less scary.”
Nick Otwinowski, who also attended for the second consecutive year, shared, “I had a great time at the conference. My first session was with the Franklin College football coach. His message was on how to build champions. He talked about how they use different quotes and team mottos to motivate their team. First example, FIST stood for Finish It Strong Together. Another breakout session was with an entrepreneur from French Lick. He talked about how to find success even through hard times. The two main guest speakers, Harvey Alston and Stephen Bargatze, were also very good. They talked about treating yourself and others with respect. It was great getting to meet so many other students from high schools all over the state. We even exchanged school t-shirts. The IHSAA Student Leadership Conference was fun and informative. I appreciated the opportunity to attend.”
Uggen added, “Alston and Bargatze have been there the past couple of years. Their message is very inspiring and moving. Alston has a way of energizing a room while making his point that being ‘HAPPY’ requires heart, attitude, pride, people, and (taking care of yourself….) you. Bargatze had a horrible childhood and he hit home when he shared with the group that ‘you were the ones who made fun of me when I was a kid.’ His challenge to those in attendance was not to forget that kid sitting along at the lunch table or those who seem alone. He managed to change his life and become a very well-known magician. Google him. He’s really good! But his message usually leaves many wiping their eyes before he is done. It’s that touching a message.”
“We had a chance to talk a little over lunch. All felt there are some things all Bruins could do to make their athletic careers more meaningful and that could lead to more success. Much of that starts with the drive to be the best each athlete can be and working together for a common goal. One mentioned specifically a lack of commitment from several athletes hurts some of our programs. I can’t say I don’t disagree. I think they also learned the challenges that come with being a leader. Hopefully, these four can be a beacon of light, get the nerve to share with their teammates which is one of the challenges of being a leader, and inspire change,” Uggen concluded.