Budding Ashland leaders travel to D.C.

Three Bellview students traveled to Washington D.C. last week for an introductory course in leadership.

Daniel Farrell, Sita McGuire and Riley Richmond were nominated by their 5th-grade teachers last spring to attend the Junior National Young Leaders Conference. They were the first group of students from Ashland to attend the conference since its inception in 1985, according to Bellview principal Christine McCollom.

Students were nominated based on academic excellence, leadership and communication skills, she said. Once in D.C., the students learned about respect, teamwork, goal setting, character, communication and problem solving while touring the nation's capital. They also took trips to Philadelphia and Harper's Ferry National Park.

"It was a pretty intense program," said Chris Richmond, who traveled along with his son. "They would have them going from 7 in the morning to 10 o'clock some days."

Students met in small Leadership Focus Groups twice each day to learn what it means to be a leader.

"It made me notice the world more," said Farrell, whose group spent the week looking for solutions to energy waste. "There's ways to help others in need, there's always room for improvement."

Riley Richmond's group studied endangered animals, a topic that interested him enough to start reading Newsweek when he got home, his father said.

"It struck a chord," he said. "I don't usually walk in and see him reading Newsweek ... now he's got a better awareness about the challenges regarding the environment and the Endangered Species Act."

Richmond also learned to see himself as a leader, even though he doesn't usually seek out leadership roles, his father said. During his week in D.C., he wrote an essay entitled "The Reluctant Leader," describing Harriet Tubman as a model leader.

Sita McGuire also did some thinking about what it really means to be a leader.

"Speak clearly and loudly and get your point across is a big part of leadership," she said. "But the most important part of being a leader, she said, is working together.

"When you're a leader you don't always have to be the boss of it all," she said. "You can be a supporter too."

McGuire said she wanted to get involved with leadership activities at the middle school next year, and Farrell said he hoped to travel to Europe for the Global Young Leaders Conference in high school or the Global Young Leaders Summit, which was held in China this year. Both are organized for alumni of the National Young Leaders Conference.

For now, Farrell isn't sure what kind of leadership positions he wants to pursue, but his family is dreaming big. Since returning, he's gained the nickname "Mr. President" and received orders from his uncle such as "Pass the ketchup, Mr. President."

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