During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people have experienced isolation, fear, medical issues, loss, financial hardships, political oppression, and discrimination. Many students are wondering how they can make a difference.
Shepherd University offers a free curriculum called the Leadership for a Better World Certificate Program, which focuses on the eight core values of the Social Change Model of Leadership Development: Consciousness of Self, Congruence, Commitment, Collaboration, Common Purpose, Controversy with Civility, Citizenship, and Change.
“The whole core of this model is let’s figure out a way to make the world a better place for ourselves, for others, and for our greater community as a global world,” said Rachael Meads, the assistant director of student engagement and founder of the program in 2013. “We are all leaders. No one is born a great leader, it’s a developed skill,” she added.
Students in the program attend at least nine leadership training workshops and choose from a variety of experiences. Past events this year have been the Emerging Leaders in Service event, the movie viewing of “The Bystander Movement,” Peer Leaders in Action Training, and Ally Training. Some students have even participated in the week-long Alternative Spring Break fieldtrip doing community service in destitute communities. After attending a designated training or event, students write a reflection on what they have learned.
“Leadership is a process that requires continuous reflection on the experiences that I am a part of, in order to truly learn, grow, and further develop as a leader,” said Alyssa Garagiola, who earned the certificate in 2020. “What’s so great about this program is that everyone’s personal journey with the Social Change Model will be unique to that person because it’s about what they are able to get out of it and what it means to them.”
Students who complete the program receive the Leadership for a Better World Certificate, honor cords, and their name on a plaque which is located at the Student Center—but the greatest reward they receive is the experience.
“There are a lot of transferable skills and lessons that students learn through this program that they can carry with them throughout their college experience and into the workforce and life,” said Alyssa Roush, who earned the certificate in 2015.
These skills are particularly valued during this turning point in history. Leaders can empower their communities to heal from the trauma of the pandemic. Young people are often not seen as leaders in our society, but student voices can have momentum—especially when they collaborate towards a common goal.
“Anyone can be a leader,” said William Prudnick, recipient of the certificate in 2021. “A leader is not necessarily some dictator barking orders, but someone who can bring about change in their community. This is an excellent way for students to hone these skills and become leaders in their communities.”
Rachael Meads has witnessed student leadership emerge during COVID-19. “We have students saying, ‘we’ve got some students with food scarcity, we ought to start a food pantry,’ and then they made it happen. You can take something small, and really turn it into something that is significant. [—] During the pandemic, I watched the nursing students step up to help vaccinate other students [and] to help COVID test other people.”
Students have the capacity to foster hope in their community, country, and world during critical times.
More information about the Leadership for a Better World Certificate Program can be found here. Applications are on RamPulse. Students with questions about the program can contact Rachael Meads at email@example.com.