On Tuesday, Dec. 1, student council leaders from six elementary schools in the Diocese of Camden came together for a day of prayer, leadership training, and fellowship at St. Vincent School in Mays Landing.
Thirty-five eighth grade student leaders from St. Vincent; Assumption, Galloway; St. Joseph, Somers Point; Bishop McHugh, Dennis Township; St. Ann, Wildwood; and Our Lady Star of the Sea, Cape May came together from 9:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m., in a retreat led by school teachers, and Dennis and Janine McGee.
The day included reflection, icebreakers, a discussion on leaders vs. followers (for example, a leader works harder than a follower and has more time, while a follower is always “too busy” to do what is necessary), and a chance to identify what traits a leader should have (character, integrity, courage, knowledge, to name a few), and which out of these are the most essential for a leader to possess.
“We were blessed to have them” as facilitators, remarked Donna DiPasquale, principal of Our Lady Star of the Sea. “We have to cultivate our young leaders.”
The retreat came about through discussions the area principals had in their monthly meetings, about wanting to do some type of student retreat.
A husband and wife team were chosen as facilitators. Dennis, 30, is a sixth grade religion and Spanish teacher at Our Lady Star of the Sea, and K-eighth grade Spanish teacher at St. Ann’s. Janine, 32, is seventh and eighth English, science, reading and religion teacher at St. Ann’s; were chosen as facilitators. They are residents of Wildwood Crest.
Currently taking online courses offered by the University of Dayton in adult faith formation, Dennis hopes to receive certification in youth ministry; the retreat is another opportunity to work with youth.
“I vividly remember going through eighth grade,” he said. “We focus on what is relevant in their lives.”
Two things he tried to emphasize with the youth, he said, were “the value of prayer, and who you surround yourself with.”
The retreat “hit home for a lot of kids,” said Janine.