Miriam College is a premier women's college in the Philippines. Founded in 1924, Miriam College offers programs at the basic, tertiary, post-graduate and adult education levels.

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Starting the Year Right: A Recap of the Student Leadership Conference 2021 hosted by Alliance for Girls’ School Australasia (AGSA)

Starting the Year Right: A Recap of the Student Leadership Conference 2021 hosted by Alliance for Girls’ School Australasia (AGSA)

Imagine over 400 student leaders from across the globe, connecting with each other to build, work together, and collaborate towards leading vividly. For three young girls in the Philippines, this started with waking up at 6:45 am on a Wednesday morning, anxious and excited for what this conference would hold for them. But this time, through their screens.

It was impossible to hold the Student Leadership Conference (SLC) face-to-face in Australia that supposedly would have happened last 2020. However, the invited delegates were stoked to know that it will still push through this year virtually, at least. For over two decades now, the Alliance of Girls’ School Australasia has continuously hosted this conference to build leadership, develop intrinsic skills, and inspire women leaders to spark change in today’s society. This year, three eleventh grade students were chosen to represent Miriam College High School (MCHS). They are Pauline Alay-ay, Denizze Ang, and Camille Cruz. With the theme of this year’s conference being, “Kaleidoscope — Shine Brightly, Lead Vividly”, the three-day conference held last January 13 to 15, 2021 encouraged the representatives to shift their perspectives in given challenges and preconceptions, helping them realize how they envision leading their communities in the year 2021, especially with the rapidly changing and constantly wavering events initiated last 2020.

The three days of the SLC were filled with exciting activities and keynote speakers who helped the delegates explore new outlooks about themselves and the people around them. Starting with identifying what you stand for, to building your mental toughness, and ending with leaving a legacy, it was no doubt a jam-packed conference, yet an incredible eye-opener at the same time. The representatives were also grouped into their own respective “Families” and “Tribes” along with other student leaders from different countries like Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

The first day was all about knowing who you are on a much deeper level. The participants, along with their corresponding mentors, were able to recognize their own set of strengths, values, goals, and dreams through the various self-paced reflections and discussions. One of the features they had to identify were their non-negotiables, which assemble to be essential in decision-making. As leaders, they have the capability to influence others, and so having the right set of values to kickstart with will ultimately create a more valuable mindset to construct better decisions for the community. By learning to trust their intuition, the activities from this starting day taught the delegates greater awareness in maximizing their strengths and valuing their non-negotiables—both as individuals and effective leaders.

For the second day, speakers elaborated how to improve one’s mental toughness as vigorous leaders. In leadership, criticism is inevitable, but how leaders respond to it is in their control. They have the capacity to choose what criticism to accept, move on, and learn from. Some may be setbacks while others are constructive. Another lesson gained by participants is making sure to look after themselves while serving others. Just like anyone else, leaders also have their low and hindering moments. Knowing how to balance one’s emotions and approach one’s feelings is imperative. A notable speaker on this day said, “Self-compassion is being kind to oneself and picking yourself up when you fall.” Though the steps crossed may be on a difficult path, those who take these are never alone. The girls were reminded that there are always others who have gone through those strides and stumbles and in finding solace in that, one can overcome whatever they encounter. One constrains themselves from growing if they play safe, so take that one, two, or even three steps forward and take those risks. Lead in any way we can, even if it means stepping out of your comfort zone.

For the final day, it was all about reflecting on the legacy they want to leave on their schools. One of the speakers emphasized the importance of having the end in mind and the need to identify problems first before even producing the solutions. When curating resolutions, these need to be desirable, feasible, and variable for these to be conclusive. Hence, the delegates were given the chance to go into breakout rooms with their schoolmates as well as faculty from their own school to plan for future projects that may be implemented for the following school year. One of the things they decided to focus on is improving already established projects and creating feasible plans that could be applied to any presented setting, whether that be face-to-face or virtual. Due to the pandemic, planning these propositions is difficult, but a challenge that the three delegates from MCHS are ready to tackle.

Communication is key in collaborating as a team, but this aspect of unity has been compromised by recent events. It is already difficult to socialize with familiar people virtually, let alone with strangers. Nevertheless, by being surrounded by co-leaders who share the same vision of striving for a better community, the delegates learned to be open and vulnerable with one another. In group discussions throughout the event, everyone freely shared their personal thoughts, which prompted them to learn and get to know each others’ journeys and unique perceptions. Overall, the three-day conference nurtured the student leaders to gain insights and critical lessons while also feeling empowered by the encompassing women who wholly support and valorously push each other as well.

Though they were over 2,700 miles apart each other, these girls were able to not just talk with one another through today’s screens, but likewise connect and build relationships. This experience unveiled how many opportunities are still at hand even with an online setup, the new normal. Incorporating these into the virtual learning system in Miriam College, several possibilities can take place and this is exactly what the three student leaders aim to do.

Given the circumstances brought about by the pandemic, Miriam College High School continues to provide opportunities like these for students to learn more about themselves, explore their identity, and transcend to become leaders in service. This remarkable conference was an exhilarating and meaningful event that hastened the delegates to reflect on their values, build their mental willpower, and envision their goals as a student, an individual, and a leader.

Identity, internal grit, and legacy. Three things the three delegates took into heart during the Student Leadership Conference. Now more than ever, Pauline, Denizze, and Camille are equipped and set on what they want to achieve as leaders this 2021. In a time full of uncertainties, this is just what they need to start the new year right. — By Pauline Alay-ay, Denizze Ang, and Camille Cruz


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