Calvert Hall College High School senior Anthony Weis runs through a trust gauntlet during a September student leadership at the Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center in northern Baltimore County. (Kevin J. Parks/CR Staff)
Editor’s Note: With the Calvert Hall-Loyola Blakefield football rivalry celebrating its 100th meeting Thanksgiving Day, the Catholic Review looks at how the schools’ academic and extracurricular offerings have adapted to the 21st century.
TOWSON – Patrick Lochte found himself blindfolded and surrounded by his fellow Calvert Hall seniors as part of a leadership/team-building day at Genesee Valley Outdoor Learning Center.
All he had to do was pick up stuffed animals and throw them. His classmates shouted to him in an effort to help him get his hands on them – lots of voices, all at once.
“You’re in the middle and you hear all these voices and go with your instincts,” he said.
Lochte, a participant in Calvert Hall’s Leadership Institute, was learning a vital lesson, teacher Dan Mulford said. “Patrick had to focus on what’s important to him,” he told students when they gathered for their leadership class the following week.
While seniors spent Sept. 26 developing their teamwork and communication skills at Genesee Valley, they usually spend two days of their six-day cycle in the classroom, as well as completing an on-line assignment, Mulford explained.
Calvert Hall’s Leadership Institute, for current and budding leaders, is open to anyone, according to Kevin Ford, who helped found the program in the fall of 2016.
Sophomores attend four evening programs, designed to be cooperative, project-based, team-building, and mildly competitive – no lectures, no note taking, Ford said. They even get a chance to suggest ways to make their school better.
“Even when we’re being critical, we’re looking at ways to improve,” Ford said.
Upperclassmen take a half-credit course. Juniors focus on profiles of leaders and work-life balance. Seniors study ethics, culture, motivation, goal setting and personal branding. Then they use their new skills to improve a club, sport or other school activity, according to Mulford.
“We believe that every student has the potential to be a leader,” said Charles Stembler, principal of Calvert Hall. “The goal of the program is to teach the skills and develop character to be leaders in the community.”
During all three years, students must be involved in some element of leadership: sports, academic programs, volunteer service, immersion trips or open houses. They also have to remain in good disciplinary standing. Students who complete the program graduate with distinction. The Leadership Institute attracts about 100 each year, but academic and other commitments lead about half drop out, according to Ford, who said the school is looking for ways to address that attrition rate.
Komghar Asgari, a senior, is a member of the football and wrestling teams. As a Leadership Fellow, he helped plan the first sophomore seminar.
“I wanted to better myself and become a better leader and be humble,” he said. “It’s definitely a lot of work. You have to put in the effort.”
Travis Johnson, a senior who runs track and is a peer minister, signed up after he was encouraged by friends who said he had leadership qualities. “I wasn’t seeing it,” he said, adding that now, he gets it.
“It’s a big thing to be a leader on the field and off the field,” added Ethan Sheridan, a cross country and track and field athlete who has enjoyed learning about different leadership styles. “It can be learned and it can be taught,” he said.
Anthony Weis, a football player, wasn’t sure what to expect but signed up anyway.
“Leadership Institute is relatively new. If I were to be asked I would recommend it to a lot of other people,” the senior said.
At a freshman retreat, Ford noticed that several members of the Ministry Assistance Team that helped set up for the overnight lock-in were enrolled in the Leadership Institute.
“If nothing else, the Leadership Institute, in conjunction with so many other programs, is building a culture of sacrifice, support and commitment to our students,” Ford said.
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