Students sitting in a conference room for the youth leadership conference

In a significant step toward empowering student leadership, Prince William County Public Schools recently hosted a workshop at the Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center for student leaders from each PWCS high school.

Nominated for their active roles in Student Voice Committees, these young leaders joined their sponsors in a series of sessions aimed at enhancing their leadership skills and shaping the future of their schools’ communities.

"The county is really making an effort to nurture and grow youth leadership in our schools and county,” commented Daniel, from Charles J. Colgan Sr. High School. “By having these leadership workshops, we are able to learn key skills... we will [carry with us] as we integrate into society, and we are better for it.”

Adom, a student leader from Woodbridge High School, and Kira, a leader from Battlefield High School, echoed these same sentiments. Adom reflected, “I learned about progressive steps to tackling biases,” and Kira stated, “The leadership conference helped me learn how to create action items out of broad issues that my school faces.”

The workshop was a collaborative effort facilitated by the Department of Student Learning and Dr. Tim Neall, director of the Research, Accountability and Strategic Planning Department. The Close UP Foundation also played a crucial role in these sessions.

Melissa Viola-Askey, administrative coordinator for history and social sciences said, “Providing opportunities for students to engage as citizens in their local communities is the ultimate goal of our program. It's been incredible to watch our students in action as they thoughtfully share their perspectives, collaborate with each other on creative solutions, and engage meaningfully in the civic process.”

During the workshop, students engaged in three breakout sessions. The first focused on consensus-building skills, vital for effective discussion facilitation. The second session allowed students to identify pressing issues in their school communities and craft action plans to address them. The third and final session delved into methods for eliciting stakeholder feedback, a critical step in refining their action plans.

The significance of this event lies in its alignment with the goals outlined in the PWCS Vision 2025 Launching Thriving Futures Strategic Plan. It not only fosters student collaboration but also bolsters the development of Student Voice Committees, a key objective set for completion by 2025. These committees are instrumental in incorporating student perspectives into the broader decision-making processes within schools.

"It's so exciting to be able to talk to our students and help them tap into their passions,” said Dr. Neall. “I believe that our students will effect change because they have opportunities like the Student Leadership Workshop to develop those skills." 

For 37 PWCS seniors, the opportunity to effect change will occur on January 30. The Close Up Foundation has invited voting aged student representatives to visit the White House and speak with members of the White House cabinet on topics such as the environment and economy. The enthusiasm and engagement of the students at this event signal a promising step forward in realizing the ambitious goals of the Strategic Plan.