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Building leadership skills; students graduate from program

Eleven high school seniors concluded their time in Leadership Dickinson with a graduation ceremony on April 11.

“Our goal is to have students build leadership skills and networking,  to really delve into the community and see what’s behind the scenes,” said Marissa Armstrong, Leadership Dickinson co-coordinator. “Business leaders share what Dickinson has to offer, and when students come back from college, they will know what’s available for them here.”

Co-coordinator Suzi Sobolik participated in Leadership Dickinson in 2010 when Rich Wardner was the director.

“My friends and I talked about it and felt it was so interesting to learn what everyone else in the community did, not just your parents, and to meet other students from the other schools. It was something we talked about fondly as adults.”

The program was discontinued until  Sobolik enrolled in a Rural Leadership North Dakota, a statewide leadership program..

“We were challenged to do a community project, and I thought how great it would be to get this going again,” Sobolik said.

The program is now run through the Dickinson Chamber of Commerce Professional development committee.  Students may apply to the program as juniors from all the high schools in Dickinson. The group meets monthly to visit businesses on a topic such as energy, tourism, health, ,government, agriculture and business.

“On the very first day, we had high ropes out in the Badlands,” Sobolik said. “The students realized, oh my gosh, they were supporting each other and stepping outside their comfort zone, and it really pushes them to form a group bond so quickly.”

The graduates were George Kessel, Dawson Dutchak, Evan Carmichael, Alexus Meduna, Ashley Forsch, McKenna Weiler, Paloma Saldana, Tylla Roshau, Kylee Schowalter, Autumn Paluck and Amy Wegner.

Paloma Saldana, who plans to study pre-medicine, learned it takes a lot to run a community.

“It’s people who really care about making the community a better place to live. It’s getting to meet all the people who work behind the scenes -- all the little things that have to be done. We were exposed to so many different jobs and fields that never crossed your mind.”

Ashley Forsch, who plans to study engineering, said the program taught them about leadership and how to overcome obstacles.

“It made me realize the actions I do now will affect my future, so Leadership Dickinson is really going to impact our lives.”

Certificates were awarded by Mayor Scott Decker, who  referenced how growing up, he wanted to find out what the rest of the country was like. Having moved away, he said he couldn’t wait to come back.

“I’m encouraged by you guys taking ownership in our city. I’m involved in projects to make sure you can stay here,” he said.

The participants reported on their experiences with the program, and also about their service project -- to raise funds to purchase teddy bears -- Kuddles for Kids --  that will be distributed to kids in times of crisis, such as a fire, needing medical care or spending the night at a shelter. The goal is to find an organization that takes over the project.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the following $1,000 scholarships were awarded: Sax Motor - Ashley Forsch, Dickinson API - George Kessel, Ebeltoft Sickler - Alexus Meduna.