Looking to add some punch to their abilities, Student Leaders at the College of Staten Island participated in the Fourth Annual Leader Retreat. The theme was “Zing! Your Life, Community, and Collective Potential,” and featured guest presenter Nancy Hunter Denney, a nationally recognized keynote speaker, author, leadership trainer, and speaker. The three-day retreat was held at the Villa Roma Resort and Conference Center in New York’s Catskill Mountains.

“The retreat really opened my eyes as to how effective we can be in developing ourselves; reaching our potential,” said Lisa LaManna, a Biology major in her second year at CSI. “At the end of the retreat, I may not have known everybody’s name, but I looked upon everyone as though they were an old friend. It was easier to talk to others and I certainly gained a surplus of information that will make my education at CSI a little smoother.”

Leaders Have a Guiding Vision

“We often hear people say, ‘Leaders are born, not made,'” began Milton Santiago, CSI’s Vice President for Finance and Administration, who visited the group for a special luncheon presentation. “However, I am here to tell you that leaders are also made. To become a leader, it is very important that one learns to know oneself; who we are, our beliefs, our values, and to have concern for others.”

“A leader has to have a guiding vision. A leader has to have passion for his or her endeavor,” Santiago continued, noting that a leader must also recognize his or her own limitations to help earn trust, because “without trust a leader cannot function [and] he or she becomes a mere occupant of a position of power.”

Preparing for the Future

“The retreat definitely prepared me for the future,” commented Bilikisu Hassan. “The most important thing I want to do in the future is to become a great public speaker… and attending this retreat helped me with that.”

Debi Kee, Associate Director of Student Life/Activities, says “we have been doing a student leader retreat for about four years now. It is sponsored every year by Student Government and the SG Club Commission, funded through Student Activity Fees. The purpose changes year to year, based on what the students’ desires are in terms of leadership development and what they want the participants to walk away with from the experience.

This year,” Kee continues, “Peter DeCrescenzo, who is the Student Government President, wanted the retreat to be focused on the concept of community, what community is, and how students and individuals contribute to a community, as well as what skills they bring to their community.

Leadership Styles and Strengths

According to Kee, the retreat included “a variety of exercises to help the students to identify their own leadership styles and strengths, and discover what it is about them that is unique and exciting, what they bring to the table when they are in a community, and how they can apply that in whatever community they choose.”

Kee adds that one of the important functions of the retreat is to remove the students from campus so that they can focus on their leadership skills. The retreat is also an important networking tool. “Our student leader groups are very diverse, we’re a big campus, so a lot of times our students don’t really realize the value of working with each other, or some of them aren’t even knowledgeable about what the other leadership opportunities are on campus. So, the retreat is a great opportunity for students who are in leadership positions to get to know the other students who are doing the same thing in a different way on our campus.”

Most importantly, though, Kee notes that the retreat builds better leaders. “All of our students who have attended this have traditionally walked away with a better understanding of their own leadership style, why they can and can’t work with some people, and motivated to do more on campus or more in their own lives.”

Today Is the Day and You Are the One

A key element of the Zing! approach to leadership is “Today is the day and you are the one.” That phrase is what resonated most with LaManna. “What this means is that the way we conduct ourselves has a direct effect on someone else,” she explained. “Everything we learn; our values and morals and key personality traits that we absorbed from our experiences are embedded in our own character. To give 100% of ourselves in a performance is to display all of our character to the viewers. Just as we have absorbed pieces of our character from elsewhere, someone else watching you may be struck by something you display. In essence, what we do has the power to uplift and enlighten the outlooks of others around us, so it is a must that we give 100% all the time in every performance. After all, most of our purposes in life revolve around connecting with others, right?”

Leadership groups from CSI that participated in this year’s retreat include representatives from Student Government, various clubs, peer educators, orientation leaders, Verrazano School Peer Mentors, FIRST Program Mentors, members of the Athletics Council, and others.

CSI students Adejoke Adegoke, Peter DeCrescenzo, and Bilikisu Hassan at the Leader Retreat