September 28, 2017
Student leaders from across the Pacific Union honed their leadership skills in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada’s over the weekend of September 21-23.
Thirty-two schools from across the Pacific Union gathered for the 29th annual Student Leadership Conference hosted at Leoni Meadows Camp in Grizzly Flats, California.
Each September, the conference brings young people together for a weekend of professional development, school bonding, and outreach to student missionaries, spiritual encouragement, and inspiration for the coming academic year.
“One of our goals for this event is to connect young people with the greater Church,” said Berit von Pohle, Director of Education for the Pacific Union. “They get to meet and network with students from other campuses who are doing the same things.”
A total of 203 students and 93 school staff came for the weekend. The event included breakout sessions for the individual student leader positions, leadership building activities at the camp’s challenge course, and general meetings for the group.
Datha Tickner, high school principal at Loma Linda Adventist Academy, led planning for the students’ breakout sessions. “As facilitators, we guide in sharing leadership skills and provide examples and tools to help them in their leadership role on their campus,” she said. “We focused on servant leadership, developing a vision of leadership, discussing the legacy they want to leave at their school, and finding three goals for the school year.”
In between breakout sessions, students attended devotional talks in the Leoni Lodge. The speaker for the conference was Iki Taimi, lead pastor of the Gardena Community Adventist Church. Taimi’s theme for the conference was VIRAL. He encouraged students to have Vision, be Inclusive, be Real, be Attentive, and be the Leader every ministry needs.
“God has a commission for you to change the world for Him,” Taimi told students. “Be attentive to Jesus. Every leader who has a viral ministry must be attentive and willing to adapt to change.”
Students enjoyed the peer interaction with other schools and saw this event as a chance to get excited about the school year.
"The best part was knowing that despite our differences, we all get along," one student said. "I liked meeting people who have similar ambitions and learning how to make a greater difference at my school."
Students also reached out to student missionaries serving in the Micronesian Islands. On Sabbath, boxes and supplies were passed out to each of the schools. For over an hour, students wrote notes of encouragement, recorded messages on recordable flash drives, and packed their box with items such as t-shirts, peanut butter, candy, and Play-Doh.
Prior to packing the boxes for the missionaries, students listened to stories from two returned student missionaries who shared photos while they spoke about their experiences. One of those missionaries was Charity Nelson, nursing student at Pacific Union College. After finishing her talk, Nelson sought out Holbrook Indian School to thank them for the box they sent her while she was working in the Amazon.
“I had been in the Amazon for two months, and I felt very lonely. God used that box to encourage me and to let me know I was not forgotten,” she said. “I would sit in my hammock and listen to the recordings of the praise music when I was missing church and spiritual community!”
Nelson met two of the students who had attended the previous year’s conference and who remembered sending her the box. She thanked them for what they sent her, which included a bag of spicy chips that they remembered sending.
“It was fun getting to tell them how I shared those chips with people who weren’t used to spicy food and who thought it was the funniest taste ever,” Nelson said.
The students packed 41 boxes for the student missionaries. “There are a lot of student missionaries serving around the world, and we have an opportunity to help them,” said von Pohle. “We want to blanket Guam-Micronesia with love and support for the work they are doing.”
Von Pohle spearheaded programming for this year’s conference, together with Doug Herrmann, headmaster at Loma Linda Adventist Academy, and Marc Woodson, executive secretary for the Northern California Conference.
Woodson has been involved in the student leadership conferences for over 15 years. “These student leaders are the ones who will continue to lead our Church. When they leave academy, they will become leaders of their community and will use the skills they are learning here,” he said. “There is an amazing camaraderie that takes place here, and this event underscores the point that they are not in it by themselves.”