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Leadership Dickinson program engages students in all areas of city

The 2016-17 Leadership Dickinson class, which is comprised of students from Dickinson High School and Trinity High School, started the year with a trip to the High Ropes Course at Badlands Ministries south of Medora this fall. (Submitted Photo)1 / 3
Leadership Dickinson held its graduation Wednesday afternoon at Players Sports Bar and Grill. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press2 / 3
The 2016-17 Leadership Dickinson class, which is comprised of students from Dickinson High School and Trinity High School, started the year with a trip to the High Ropes Course at Badlands Ministries south of Medora this fall. (Submitted Photo) 3 / 3

A group of high school seniors concluded their time in the Leadership Dickinson program Wednesday afternoon with a graduation ceremony.

The program serves to teach students about different leadership qualities, as well as the variety of job sectors in town — all of which incorporate leadership strategies in order to operate.

Father Kregg Hochhalter, dean of students at Trinity High School, attended the graduation and noted the importance of leadership for high school students.

"Any leadership training, any leadership education is critical nowadays," he said. "It's tough to find time and to find areas in the school to do that without being like another thing to do, so I think Leadership Dickinson takes them out of the school and teaches them such critical content that we're trying to do in the school... It's huge in the 21st century, and the more they have of it, the better."

Students from both Trinity and Dickinson High School went through a lengthy application process as juniors — including filling out a sizable application, listing references and then facing a panel of five community members for an interview.

About a dozen students were selected and have since had monthly field trips visiting different sectors of the community including, economic development, energy, agriculture, local government, state government, health and human services and tourism.

Abigail Moberg, a senior at DHS, said she enjoyed the group's trip to the Legislature most. The students were able to sit in on a committee hearing, so she chose health and human services based on her interest in the healthcare field. She then sat on the Senate floor with Sen. Oley Larsen, R-District 3, who explained to her why he voted the way he did, she said. He told her about a campaign to sway some representatives in the House on a proposed bill, which she got involved with as a result.

From these trips she learned the significance of every facet of the community.

"There are no small jobs. It really made me realize how important everything is in our town," Moberg said. "... There's so much going on in Dickinson that you don't really know about until you really immerse yourself in the smaller parts of what's going on — that's something that Leadership Dickinson really focuses on, and I think it's awesome, it's an awesome experience."

Beth Berger, a senior at Trinity, said the things she learned during her time in the program will stay with her throughout life. The trips were entirely about learning, discussing new ideas, thinking about the impact of what they learned and how to implement it in their own lives, she said.

"You can be a leader in any kind of position you are in life," Berger said. "You can be a parent and lead your family, you can be even just a department manager and leading your department well within a business or you can also be a CEO or president of a company and lead in that way. No matter what position you're given in life, you always have some sort of opportunity to lead somebody and make an impact on someone, and so even as a student, I understand that I can impact other students, and they can impact me."

Co-coordinators Suzi Sobolik and Marisa Armstrong now run the program through the Dickinson Chamber of Commerce. Sobolik was a part of Rural Leadership North Dakota, a statewide leadership program that challenges people to start a community project. She noticed that Leadership Dickinson was no longer in existence, so she decided to restart the program several years ago.

The chamber has been involved the last four years and helps collect funds and provides a body for the coordinators to bounce ideas off of when planning each trip, Sobolik said. They fund the event through the support of the community, much of which comes from businesses that are members of the chamber. This year, Sax Motor Co. in Dickinson and the American Petroleum Institute each sponsored a $1,000 scholarship that the program's students could apply for. Beth Berger and Hannah Kovash won the respective scholarships based on their essays about what they gained from the program.

Ultimately, Sobolik said they hope the students invest their leadership into Dickinson or whatever part of the world they end up in — hopefully always serving as prime examples from southwest North Dakota. Over the past several months, she has seen growth in all the students through their discussions surrounding each month's topic.

"Their mind-shift is changing to think more worldly and what's going on in their community or the country or the world," she said.

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