Student Leadership Day brings together Catholic junior high, high school students.A group of sixth, seventh and eighth graders sitting around a table were handed a short story to read in about five minutes and then explain its content.Once that was done came the core of the discussion.“What do you think are the traits the leaders in the stories have to offer?” asked Julyanna Mendez, a junior at Holy Family College Preparatory in Glendale.“Selflessness,” said one of the students. “Caring,” said a second. “Optimistic,” said a third.Mendez, together with her classmate April Marie Castro, put on top of the table a set of strips of white paper with some words written on them with big bold letters.Confidence. Persistent. Humility. Fairness. Compassion. Sharing. Empathy. Innovation. Honesty. Team-work. Dedication. Inspirational. Organized.Each student was asked to pick one of the words that described them the best, or a trait they wanted to develop in themselves.One chose humility. “Because I want other people to be in front of me,” he said.“Confidence,” said a female student, “because I used to be shy and to be a leader you don’t have to be shy.”At the end of the dynamic, the whole group chose caring, fairness, teamwork, dedication and inspirational as the main qualities a leader should have.But the students were not talking about any kind of leadership, they were learning about how to be servant-leaders.It was the first of many workshops facilitated by juniors and sophomores of more than 90 Catholic schools participating in the Jan. 30 “2013 Student Leadership Day,” at the Cathedral Conference Center.The event was sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in partnership with The Association of Catholic Student Councils (TACSC), a faith-based nonprofit that helps develop leadership skills in junior high and high school students “so they can lead more effectively and make a difference in the communities where they live,” said James Oswald, president of the organization’s board of directors.Based on the theme of the day, “Think, practice, do, grow,” the day was full of hands-on activities where older students could practice their leadership skills by facilitating workshops where younger participants (all of them members of their school’s student council) could learn how to discover skills in them or develop the ones they have.The activity was Archbishop José Gomez’s idea, according to Kevin Baxter, archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic elementary schools.“He [Archbishop Gomez] wanted to do something different during this year’s Catholic Schools Week, where our future leaders in church and society can have an opportunity to learn new things to continue to be well-prepared. This is an exciting day of wonder,” Baxter told The Tidings.“Today you are here because you are leaders in your school, and one day you will be leaders in our church and in our society,” Archbishop Gomez told a room packed with nearly 1,000 students, teachers, principals and chaperones.“To be a leader you have to know who you are and where you are going,” he continued. “To be a good leader you have to be a good follower of Jesus Christ, because only Jesus can tell us who we are and where we should be going and when you follow him your life becomes a wonderful adventure.“And you have to stay true to who you are and true to who God made you to be.”In mentioning the stories of recently-canonized Saints Kateri Tekakwitha and Marianne Cope, the archbishop told participants that God has “a plan for every person. And wherever you are, you must seek God’s will for you.“That’s what is going to make you a leader. That is what is going to make you a saint and that is how you are going to make a difference in our church and in our society.”He urged the students to never forget that God loves them and to keep learning about the life of Jesus.“You are the Kateri Tekakwithas, the Marianne Copes, the Saint Pauls and Saint Peters of the 21st century,” he said.The archbishop’s words were echoed by Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark, who presided at the mid-afternoon student leadership liturgy.“Those are you; they represent you; these are all the leaders of the Church,” he told the assembly, while pointing to one of the Tapestries of Saints hanging from the walls in the Cathedral, many of which feature young children of all races accompanying the different saints.“God planned special gifts to build up the church, and they are different from one person to the other,” said Bishop Clark. “But the more important leadership is the one that leads others to God. Be the good soil so you can be a good leader.”He also urged the youth to be “strong, active and committed” in their faith.Ericka Giordano, student council moderator at South Pasadena’s Holy Family School, said she was leaving “very enlightened” after spending the day with children and staff from other schools.“I learned new things that can be applied at our school,” she said.Holy Family student council president Isabella Schmitz said the main thing she learned during the day was the importance of putting “myself behind those I serve.” And vice president Sal Spina said he learned he needs to be more communicative, patient and to “learn to listen well and be open to people’s ideas.”TACSC’s 2013 Summer Leadership Conferences (5 day/4 night, residential camp) will be held at Loyola Marymount University, June 26-30; Claremont McKenna College, July 10-14; and in a site to be determined, July 24-28. 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