For high school students at Parish Episcopal School, their participation in the school’s Leadership Institute isn’t just for credit; it’s a potential career and life changing experience.
The Parish Leadership Institute was developed as an Upper School component of ParishLeads, the School’s embedded leadership programming aimed at creating young people of impact at every grade level, PreK-12. Each year approximately 20 Parish freshman, who have a deeper interest in and wish to elevate their study and application of leadership to a higher level, are invited to participate in the Institute with the intent of building a deeper self-awareness of their talents and passions. The students are taught to sharpen their skills for inspiring and enabling themselves and others to think bigger and act bolder, while identifying how they can use their talents, passions and leadership skills to achieve lasting results.
Students accepted into the Leadership Institute commit to three years of leadership coursework, experiential activities and workshops, and a culminating LEAD project. Likewise, a key component of the three year program is each student being matched with a Professional Mentor, providing the opportunity to be exposed and learn from respected and accomplished leaders throughout the Dallas community.
The select group of successful professional mentors (executives, business owners, board members, community leaders, etc.) are prepared to help students learn how to foster meaningful, long-term relationships in the community, as well help guide them through the activities and LEAD projects along the way. The learning experience that students gain from their “real world” sponsor and the access and understanding of how a network of support can make a broader impact is invaluable, as is the lasting relationships built between the student and mentor.
We got to catch up with several current Leadership Institute juniors and their mentors at a recent LEAD project showcase presented to Institute members, mentors and Head of School, Dave Monaco.
Maxwell Zucker, a Parish tennis player who has a vision for Parish tennis facilities, was partnered with Dan Collins, a Dallas business executive and Parish parent.
“Maxwell is fearless, and has the same sense of the possible that I do,” said Collins. “There are no limits to what he sees and I am thrilled to walk him through this process.”
Maxwell said having Collins as a mentor was an inspiration, and they had a connection right away at the mentor mixer. “He has given me such great advice, and his career and leadership helped me so much,” said Maxwell.
Thomas “TC” Monaco, who was presenting a plan to develop a leadership academy for KIPP students (Knowledge is Power Program for underserved communities) implemented through a basketball workshop to promote interest, is partnered with Parish parent and board member Bud Applebaum of Wingate Partners. Applebaum said he was honored to be TC’s mentor, and would love to see TC use everything he learns from this project to impact others in a positive way.
“I have known Mr. Applebaum for many years, and it was an easy choice and great fit to have him as my mentor,” said TC.
Mei Lynn Colby, who developed a Day Camp leadership program for Family Gateway is matched with Parish parent and executive coach Danya Casey. According to Mei Lynn, she not only gained a business advisor, but a friendship she is honored to have.
“There is just this great connection with us,” Mei Lynn said of Casey. “We are so much alike and she has made this an absolutely unforgettable experience.”
“I hope she takes so much from this experience, but most importantly to never give up,” said Casey. “She has had such a tough time reaching the right people to help with her initiative, and I’ve told her to be persistent, keep looking for alternate access points when one doesn’t work.”
The goal behind this mentoring program at Parish is to create possibilities for Parish students, provide role models, spark the confidence needed to be in a position of leadership and show them how to plan and implement complex project plans and strategies at a young age. In their mentor meetings and workshops, students are given advice, guidance and encouraged to develop independent responsibility for overall leadership success.
Students also play an active role in the mentor selection process by suggesting potential mentors who they feel would have an interest and be strong contributors. Head of School Dave Monaco, who teaches a course in the Parish Leadership Institute, is proud of this class and the results of their hard work as well as for the dedication from the mentors themselves.
“All but two of this year’s mentors are Parish parents,” said Monaco. “It’s encouraging to both program administrators and the students to see such passion from our parents and friends of Parish to support our students in such a meaningful and life changing way.”