The morning started with music and dancing.
Approximately 1,200 students in high school and middle school, from inside Carroll County and in surrounding jurisdictions, filled the auditorium of Westminster High School on Monday.
Students dubbed the best dancers in their school raced to the front of the auditorium and climbed onto the stage, where they were broken into three groups. They each competed in a dance lasting nearly a minute, before teachers from all of the different schools took the stage and took their turns busting a move.
And while there were a lot of moments of fun and laughter, the students inside Westminster’s auditorium Monday morning got a lot more than a dance party.
The Jostens Renaissance Tour, an event that is traveling around on a 47-stop tour this year, focuses on school climate and culture. CCPS Supervisor of Teacher and Leadership Development Jeff Alisauckas said via email students and educators were from Carroll, Howard, Frederick, Montgomery, Baltimore and Harford counties, and students from southern Pennsylvania schools were also in attendance.
Alisauckas said the tour provides students with “the knowledge of key elements to get ‘results’ in their school. The key elements they learned about [Monday] morning were ‘Respect, Recognize, Reward and Results.’ These four elements when added together make up the five R’s. Students throughout the morning were also challenged to ask themselves if they were a leader, an influencer or a follower.”
“It’s funny what you can do when you believe in yourself,” Phillip Campbell, one of two people who spoke to the students Monday, said. “I believe in you.”
Campbell is a 16-year educator with experience as a teacher, coach, athletic director and principal who implemented Renaissance in his school. The other speaker, Mike Smith, is the founder and executive director of a non-profit indoor skate park/youth outreach center called THE BAY and its offshoot, Skate For Change.
The pair talked with the kids about giving back, positive change and following their passions throughout the three-hour assembly.
Campbell spoke of his time as an educator, and the different students he came upon. He told the kids that they may all want to be great, and to be legendary, but there’s no “cookie cutter” way to get there. Campbell said he has the highest degree he can, but that’s not why he is successful — it’s his work ethic that got him to where he is, he said.
Campbell also spoke about stereotypes, and working to break down barriers.
“Society has a way of trying to bring us down,” he said.
But stereotypes are learned, and can be unlearned, he said.
“We all want to be seen. We all want to be heard. We all want to be loved,” Campbell added.
Smith talked to the kids about what it means to be a leader, and what it means to help others. He told the students he felt like he was lied to his whole life, that there was just one way to success. When kids are young, he said, adults ask them what they want to be and before they know it, they’re getting a degree in something they guessed about when they were will kids, he said.
Kids should be asked, and learn about what kind of people they want to be instead, he said.
“Jobs change, careers change, who you are as a human is what you can take with you,” Smith said.
Smith told the students about growing up, and learning what it meant to actually help people to help them, and not for the recognition. He told the students something a mentor told him — something he said he never forgot.
“Helping people happens when no one else is looking,” he said.
For student leaders at Westminster High School, the day offered something they could bring back to their classmates, and work to make their school a better place.
Jordan Costley, a sophomore at Westminster and the president of Stand Up!, the anti-bullying club at the school, said the assembly was a great opportunity for all students.
“It really does have an impact on you to think ‘what do I really want to do with myself and my life and what is my passion?’” she said.
Costley said she took notes throughout the program about things she wants to try to bring to her school, but also out in the community.
“You don’t just come here to get out of class. The point of you being here today is to learn something,” she said of the assembly.
Senior Casey Niebuhr said the main goal of the assembly was to help spread positivity, and help people pursue their dreams.
“We’re all going to die at some point anyway so what's the point in bringing other people down?” he said.
Niebuhr said he really enjoyed getting a chance to take part in the program, and hopes it’s something that can help his school.
“This school really needs it,” he added.
Alisauckas said the event wasn’t just important to Carroll students.
“By leading, not wishing and talking, but by doing, students can work together to make great things happen at their schools. Every school can always improve,” he said. “Every school can always be a little better, whether it’s in terms of academics or whether it’s in terms of climate and culture. This assembly focused on climate and culture, and who doesn’t want to make their school better in regards to those two topics?”