Four days, three lessons, two realizations, and one flight. The landing will surely take some time, but, hey, don’t mind the journey.
On January 14 to 17, 2020, held at the Women’s University in Sydney, Australia, was the Take Flight - Student Leadership Conference (SLC). Miriam College, being an active member of the Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia, opened the doors for four Grade 11 students: Alicia Ilagan, Lara Kintanar, Franky Mendoza, and Margo Mendoza when they were chosen to represent the school for the said conference. They were recognized for their outstanding leadership they have manifested through the years of serving MCHS. They partook in the conference that has been annually hosted for over two decades now. With almost two-hundred girls, who were also student leaders; from different backgrounds reaching Zimbabwe, New Zealand, America, and of course, Australia, the girls were just one continent away from witnessing this life-changing opportunity.
One of the key objectives of the conference was to recognize the need to support women all over the world in hopes of achieving gender equality and using the potential women have as leaders. Alicia, Lara, Franky, and Margo revealed how not even one moment during the conference did they feel left behind or outcasted. The warm welcome and open-mindedness of the other delegates made them feel limitless and capable. “Empowered would be an understatement,'' they said. SLC 2020 truly fueled the burning passion and yearning for leadership with service, that the girls were just starting to feel.
The four days spent during the conference, to put it simply, was said to be absolutely enlightening. The first day of the conference was spent introducing the team behind the conference and the women who were going to lead them through the following days. From there, they were grouped into ‘squads’ who eventually became their ‘families’ for the duration of the conference and up until now — the present.
The following days were a whirlwind. A kaleidoscope of workshops and speakers who showed them the tools they needed in order to actualize into amazing leaders. They were taught how to make decisions under the riskiest of situations, showed the power of vulnerability, and most importantly — the strength within us even at the lowest of lows.
The conference eventually culminated into a night that they will never forget. The final night of the conference was initially spent through an intimate and formal supper. With dinner eaten and conversations extolled, the dance floor suddenly felt barren. On this night, the girls’ inhibitions came and went. The last night was spent expressing their love for one another and basically dancing the night away.
On the fourth day, despite the conference coming to an end, they parted ways on a very high note. The squads presented their secret missions. The themes of these missions varied, but they all had one goal: to teach the aspects of being a leader and spreading positivity. It ranged from gratitude, kindness, and courage.
The girls mentioned how SLC 2020 started with everybody quite shy but eager to get to know one another. But SLC 2020 ended with everybody as a family — as a strong group of women ready to lead the schools they were coming home to.
Going back home as people who now know better is a great feeling for the girls. It’s the feeling of certainty that with everything that they have learned, they know they will do great. The first lesson is that a person deserves he/she has received because it is not about what they have done in the past, but what they will do in the future to prove that they are worthy. Second, the sequence to loving truly is an acknowledgment of all the strengths, weaknesses and shortcomings, forgiveness of the past, acceptance of what happened, what is happening and what may happen and then love. Third, a person has to have balance, he/she does not have to choose whether to prioritize himself/herself or others but he/she should learn how to balance. An individual’s growth is an inspiration and a lesson to others and vice versa. Fourth, a person will always be limitless. A person can achieve so much at one point, but surely, as time passes by and as he/she grows, he/she will do better than the best as long as there is passion, perseverance, and trust. Fifth, time AND bravery heals, so do not run away from pain, take deep breaths and embrace the beauty of the uniqueness of pain. Lastly, take risks and embrace the uncertainty of the future. Stop being so worried about what may happen, trust and believe that whatever may happen will either make the person sigh in relief or improve his/her own growth as he/she heals. Passion will not always be there beforehand, but it will surely make its way through your heart as everything falls into place.
The initiative of Miriam College to send students to leadership conferences is essential as it provides students, especially emerging student leaders, a great opportunity to grow, not only as a leader but also as an individual. Sending students to conferences abroad proves how Filipinos have the capacity to keep up and connect with individuals from any part of the globe. Being in the same room with fellow women who are empowered young leaders is indeed exhilarating because their presence reminded the representatives of MCHS that these ladies experience the same things they do. Through conferences such as SLC, students are exposed to different types of environments and cultures, different types of leadership, and are allowed to take inspiration from the different projects that can be implemented in their own schools. The student leaders are given the opportunity to engineer their own projects that fit their school community. It gives student leaders a whole new perspective, therefore, improving their way of leadership.
Moreover, the skills of student leaders are further developed through the set of activities and workshops the conference offer. Align with this, the students are taught and given the time to understand and learn more about themselves to better serve the people. Conferences ensure that the students get to speak up their minds. SLC, in particular, allowed the delegates to be vulnerable and to share their personal stories without the ladies feeling intimidated nor judged by the audience. These conferences produce individuals that are more self-aware and self-confident, which will surely help them in their leadership positions.
The most remarkable thing that the conference did is remind the delegates that it is a key role of leaders to have the ability to push and inspire people to reach their full potential. After attending the conference, students are equipped with different learnings that they can share with their fellow leaders, as well as the whole student body and apply when they take on their leadership roles in MC. Certainly, this opportunity is something that the students representing the school will highly value in the responsibilities they will partake in, not only inside the campus but in the totality of their lives. By Alicia Ilagan, Lara Kintanar, Franky Mendoza and Margo Mendoza