By Faith Hoyt, with Kimberly Stubbert
This fall, the 32nd annual Student Leadership Conference (SLC), which has in previous years taken place at Leoni Meadows Camp in Grizzly Flats, Calif., went virtual for 31 junior and senior academies across the Pacific Union.
It was an unusual year, with Student Leadership Conference being held on Zoom for the first time. The 298 attendees were comprised of 195 students, 75 principals and school sponsors, and 28 presenters and SLC committee members.
“The objective was to strengthen the leadership skills and spiritual commitment of the student leaders in the junior and senior academies of the Pacific Union Conference,” said Berit von Pohle, director of education for the Pacific Union. Added to this is the goal of helping students to network and build relationships with student leaders from other schools. To achieve these objectives, the retreat program made time for team building, fellowshipping with students from other schools, and spiritual growth.
Pastor Marc Woodson, president of the Northern California Conference, provided the spiritual foundation for leadership development from the Biblical story of Queen Esther with a theme called “The Power of One.” Woodson’s talks highlighted three important distinctions between God-pleasers and people-pleasers.
“God-pleasers work diligently even though no one is looking. People-pleasers work hard only when others are looking,” Woodson shared with students. He also pointed out that, “God-pleasers work with a burning passion to please the Heavenly Boss; people-pleasers work only to satisfy an earthly boss,” and that “God-pleasers will make an unpopular decision because they are concerned about what God thinks; people-pleasers won’t make an unpopular decision because they are afraid of what people might think.”
In keeping with tradition, service and outreach were a part of this year’s conference. This year, student leaders participated in socially distanced service activities on their own campuses or individually. Activities included packing care packages, writing notes to the elderly, volunteering at local food banks, and creating gift baskets for local fire departments.
Though the students could not gather at their usual retreat location, Leoni Meadows nonetheless provided tasty cookies, communion bread, and T-shirts for the event. The Office of Education sent boxes to the schools filled with the items they would need for the social activities and communion—and included tasty treats from Leoni Meadows, just like they would have had in person. The program included the usual “Birds-of-a-Feather” sessions for student association presidents, general vice-presidents, religious vice-presidents, social vice-presidents, senior class presidents, and junior class presidents.
“The SLC committee planned very carefully to include the main aspects of the event in a more condensed schedule,” said Kimberly Stubbert, administrative assistant to the director of education. “We focused on making it interactive and connecting student leaders throughout the union.”
The Student Leadership Conference is a joint venture involving the Pacific Union, Conference Youth Ministries Departments, senior academies, La Sierra University, and Pacific Union College. Representatives from these groups served on the SLC Planning Committee and were heavily involved in planning and executing the virtual retreat. Monterey Bay Academy Principal PJ Deming hosted the general sessions, Northern California Conference Superintendent of Schools Albert Miller created icebreakers, Southeastern California Conference Associate Superintendent Datha Tickner coordinated the “Birds-of-a-Feather” breakouts, and Central California Conference Associate Superintendent Jerry Corson set up a way for schools to share photos with each other as part of their interactive activities. La Sierra University and Pacific Union College also provided strong support of the leadership program and planned creative social activities.
According to attendees, SLC went very well and was enjoyed by the students. Mountain View Academy said, “Amazing job for leadership conference. I know it wasn’t what we expected, but it was an awesome program. Well done.”