College students attend leadership forum

Weston Bland from Missouri State University shakes hands with Gov. Jay Nixon. Bland is one of a group of Missouri college campus leaders in Jefferson City to discuss challenges at the Governor’s Faith and Leadership Forum.

Weston Bland from Missouri State University shakes hands with Gov. Jay Nixon. Bland is one of a group of Missouri college campus leaders in Jefferson City to discuss challenges at the Governor’s Faith and Leadership Forum. Photo by Stephen Brooks.

A well-spoken young lady with poise, a modern young man in ripped jeans and a blazer, and another soft-spoken man sporting a bow tie met this week for the first time because they share a common trait — leadership.

Clara Zeller, a resident assistant from College of the Ozarks, Kevin Stewart, student government president at Southwest Baptist University, and Antonio Lewis, student government president at Lincoln University, were among nearly 100 college leaders invited to the governor’s 24th annual Student Leadership Forum on Faith and Values.

Selected by their campus administration for their qualities of leadership and responsibility, these students then create strong friendships with each other while being inspired by adult leaders, including Gov. Jay Nixon, Carolyn Mahoney, president of Lincoln University, and Mel Tjeerdsma, football coach at Northwest Missouri State University.

At Lincoln, the student government president typically nominates students for this forum, Lewis said. But it was his vice president who nominated Lewis.

In all, the local campus sent four delegates from each grade level.

“We like to identify emerging leaders,” Lewis said. “Whenever I graduate, the people behind me are in the know; they know the traditions.”

From the beginning of the forum Tuesday morning through the closing remarks from local businessman Gary Wilbers on Thursday, the primary focus of small-group discussions and speakers was servant leadership.

“When you help others first, you know you are here to serve,” Lewis said.

Stewart agreed, “the key is not that you want to be a leader, but it’s a position others give you as you serve.”

For Zeller, she has modeled her life by seeking Jesus Christ in all she does, she said.

“I didn’t see myself as a leader, but I have ended up serving a lot of people,” Zeller said.

“It’s a blessing; I don’t see it as something I accomplished but something God did through me.”

Attending the Governor’s Prayer Breakfast on Wednesday morning, the students were encouraged to hear their leaders talk about values.

“There’s still a candle burning in our government,” Zeller said. “That’s beautiful and encouraging to me.”

The students also found that although values can be commonalties among leaders, they may share differing viewpoints on issues.

“We all want to make the world better,” Stewart said.

Keeping an open mind and respecting other opinions have helped these young people exchange ideas.

The students also have found that they share similar challenges, such as pride versus humility.

“It’s nice to hear about other people’s struggles and gain wisdom from those who have been there,” Stewart said.

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