NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Student leadership retreat meets

Student leaders from NECC attended a Massachusetts Higher Education Student Leadership Retreat at Fitchburg State University in Fitchburg, MA.

The leadership retreat began in 2002, after a task force took two years to see how they could improve the quality of student life on all campuses across the state. After the two years were complete, the task force decided to change the “Conference on the Quality of Student Life,” into the “Student Leadership Conference.”

Grant Bellino, a Philosophy major said, “The conference is a great way of meeting new people that attend different school from all over Massachusetts, I really enjoyed it.”

When students registered for the conference they were given choices of what workshops to attend. They had four sessions to choose from for the first workshop and another four to choose from for the second workshop. Three of the student leaders all chose the “Developing Yourself as a Polished Leader” workshop.

In this workshop the student leaders were taught some tricks of getting through public speaking. They were given a pile of paper, they had to draw one and talk about that subject for one minute. The subjects ranged from “Dunkin Donuts vs. Starbucks” to “Who is someone you look up to?”

Jasmine Polanco, a Political Science major, picked the one that asked, “What is your favorite board or video game?” Polanco began to talk about the game Monopoly but turned into a great memory she had with her family playing the game. Polanco said, “I’d have fun playing the game with my family until they brought Boardwalk or Park Place on me, then I wanted to quit.” This made the entire room burst into laughter.

Victoria Gonzalez, a business transfer student had to speak about her favorite food. She decided to speak about soul food. She spoke about the different types of soul food from macaroni and cheeses to fried chicken. Gonzalez said, “Soul food just speaks to you.” This also brought humor to the room.

Bellino had to speak about what is better, cats or dogs. This got the crowd worked up because he was a cat person and most of the workshop attendees were dog people. Bellino said, “I’d want to be a cat, they get to sleep all day and get to eat tuna fish.”

The second set of workshops had the students breaking up to go to two different workshops. One of “Utilizing Student Leadership Skills in the “Real World,” and “The Politics of Money.”

In the Utilizing Student Leadership Skills, the presenter spoke about the stereotypes that the millennial generation face on a daily basis. They went over some of the stereotypes and some of the popular ones were that they were spoon fed, needed everything done for them, and needed praise. The presents Dave Koffman, Director of Communications and Policy for Massachusetts Community Colleges gave suggestions on how to get past those.

Koffman said, “Remember the strengths you have and bring them to the table.”

When the stereotypes were being discussed, there was one participant who was shocked that people thought this about his generation and yelled across the room.

“Who thinks this about us?”

Koffman responded with, “Just about everyone who’s older than you.”

After the workshops the student leaders presented with a keynote speaker while they enjoyed their lunch. The Keynote Speaker was Senator Michael Moore from Millbury, who serves as the Senate Chair on the Joint Committee on Higher Education in the Massachusetts State Legislature.

Senator Moore decided not to talk about higher education, but instead about money and how it is broke up between the Massachusetts colleges. He let students know that although most think Massachusetts is number one for its schools, it actually falls forty-eighth in the country for state funds.

When the speech was over Senator Moore announced, “Before I go, I have one question for you. How many of you believe we are losing the war on drugs?”

Senator Moore then began to talk about marijuana and how he thinks it is bad to legalize it. He spoke about going to Colorado and letting the student leaders all the bad things he saw. He began to use a ton of stereotypes about marijuana smokers. Students seemed to be getting irritated with his presentation and him going on about his agenda as opposed to talking about higher education in the state.

“That was not right that he did that,” said Gonzalez. ‘He should have spoken about what he was there for, not about legalizing marijuana.”

The question was asked again by Senator Moore. “Who believes we are losing the war on drugs?”

A student yelled from across the room, “We’re losing the war on heroin, not marijuana.”

To wrap up the day the students were taught a bit about sexual violence that happens to all and seems to happen more than anyone in the room expected. The presentation was given by Rachel DiBella, MSW, Assistant Director at Boston College’s Women’s Center and a Visiting Lecturer at Framingham State.

Dibella spoke about how one in five people is a victim of sexual violence. She also wanted to make it very clear that the stats don’t exactly encompass all the different gender identities, which is an important thing to note.

Another statistic Dibella gave was that, “Most of the victims or survivors of sexual violence are first-semester female college students and they happen in dormitories.”

This statistic resonated with the room of college students and many questions came up as a result of it.