Minnehaha Leadership Institute: A Good Investment of My Time

Amy Barnard

L-R Top: Nick, Academic Intern. Lily, Athletic Track and Chapel Intern. Owen, Fellows Track. L-R Bottom: Anneka, Fellows Track. Tobias, Athletic Track and Chapel Intern. Heiby, Athletic Track and Service Intern. 

The Minnehaha Academy Leadership Institute (MLI) is a program designed for Upper School students who want to deepen their leadership skills. We asked nine students share what excites them about being part of the Minnehaha Leadership Institute. Read on to find out why they joined, and why they stay.

1. Why did you decide to join the Leadership Institute?

Tobias: It's my senior year, and I wanted to fully immerse myself in the Minnehaha community. I also wanted to grow my leadership skills, now that I'm a senior and a captain of sports teams... I looked up to a lot of the seniors when I was younger, so I wanted to become the best leader possible since I now filled that role.

Lily: As I did more research into what it was going to be (because it was different than just a regular intern program) I thought it would be a really cool opportunity to discover what gifts God has given me and to go deeper into how I can use those in real life.

Heiby: When I was a first-year student there were a few seniors who were really enthusiastic about their roles in the intern program. They would come up and individually invite me to social events or diversity events. It made me feel really welcome and I wanted to do that as well.

David: In part it was because my friends were doing it, and also Mr. Hoffner recommended I join. But then I also realized that it would be good for me to develop my leadership skills because in the long run this is something I will need.

2. How has this experience challenged you this year?

Linnea: For the Athletic Track, just to see how much Coach Britten and Coach Quinn really care about us. You can tell they put a lot of work into it. And they care about us so much as individuals; they believe we can make an impact. I think that has been really inspiring to just check myself and make sure that I'm being uplifting to my teams.

Heiby: I'm proud of the Service Intern Program. We reached out to so many organizations and got shut down. COVID made it really hard. This is reasonable, because you've got to be safe. At the beginning of the year we did a food drive, and then a Christmas present drive. One idea we had right from the start was to do a sports drive; we thought that it was never going to come through, but then we found an organization to work with. We learned to be super persistent, because we did start to feel like giving up after being shut down over and over again.

Nick: The discussions on humility and empathy impacted me. I've always liked school and it's never been too much of a struggle for me. It's about realizing that not everyone feels that way and that people learn in different ways, so I need to work to see things from their perspective.

Owen: What has impacted me has been that whole idea of being a humble servant instead of being gaudy and like, "I know what's up. I know what I'm doing." Just recognizing that no one has it fully figured out, and even in a leadership role you're constantly learning.

3. What is something that you learned that you will carry with you into future roles?

Nick: The culture of collaboration. After Ms. Burton's talks the groups would meet and discuss plans for the year or how it was going; being able to shoot ideas off each other and build off of one another's thoughts is important there. Also, when helping students with their work [as an Academic Intern], collaboration is important because as upper level students we've done the work but we don't want to just tell them the answer. Instead we need to encourage them to come to it on their own.

Lily: I'd say the skill of listening will stick with me. Especially with being a Chapel Intern. I have my ideas, and I know what I have to contribute, but that might not be the right thing. And so taking a step back and being willing to listen to other people's ideas, whether they're from a chapel intern or another student; taking those ideas, and also considering them rather than just focusing on my idea.

Eleanor: Dr. Harris talked about consistency. She said that you can't let people's praise get you too far up, and don't let people's criticism get you down about yourself. There will always be a mix of criticism and praise, and you need to stay level either way.

Tobias: I will hold onto the idea that there is always more you can learn. Hearing from so many different leaders in our school, from Coach Quinn to Mr. Britten, Mr. Sauer, Ms. Calvin, Mr. Wenschlag...they all lead in different ways. There is no one way to do it, and leadership should be malleable. There is never an end goal, you just always work on improving.

One student sits with her mentor, smiling. Three headshots (two girls one boy) of additional students are below.

Top: Ms. Overton (school counselor and MLI mentor) and Kaelee, Fellows Track. L-R, Bottom: Eleanor, Fellows Track. Linnea, Athletic Track and Service Intern. David, Fellows Track.

4. What is something new you tried as a result of this year?

Owen: The Leadership Institute has given me some new ways to think about faith in my daily life. One thing has been learning new ways to pray. It was kind of calming to set aside time to pray, which I definitely tried to do during that time and still try to do.

Anneka: I've really learned how I can spend time with God. We read a book, called In the Name of Jesus. Reading that book really hit me hard, and I found that I like reading these types of books. So now I've developed a habit where I've started reading more books on spiritual formation.

Lily: After a year of serving the community through being a Chapel Intern, I decided to spend a few weeks this summer volunteering with a missions organization. I will be taking one of their leadership positions in organizing food for the teams and helping out. Because of the things I learned through the Leadership Institute, I feel properly equipped to accept the role.

5. What have you loved about being part of the Leadership Journey?

Lily: Definitely the people! I have been blessed to get to know my classmates better as well as meet new people. These relationships have been extremely life- giving and authentic. I am grateful for Ms. Calvin and the other Chapel Interns I was given the chance to lead with.

Eleanor: I've loved learning more about myself and who God is. I also love the group of people in my track, it's been a really fun year.

Linnea: The Christmas present drive. We reached out to the MA community and... oh my goodness! It was just crazy to see so many people coming together! It was so fun sorting the gifts and going through the list of kids they were going to. We also got to deliver them to the organization and learn about how the program works.

Owen: I've loved the space that we created, where we could be open and talk about different things that were going on in our lives. And just all coming together for time to learn about Jesus and dive a little deeper than we do in a normal school day.

6. How has having a mentor impacted you?*

Anneka: We go on walks, and I just talk about my life, what's been happening, and what I've been learning. She (Kara Stromberg) has been a great person to debrief my life with. I don't have to be afraid to ask her questions.

Kaelee: Ms. Overton and I have been going through 100 Days of Joy and Strength. It's crazy how God will seem to put a devotional there just for the day I need it. Then we get together and talk about how I can grow in response.

David: It's good to be able to communicate your thoughts with someone else and make sure you are on the right track. (Mentor: His aunt Catherine, an engineering teacher.)

Three girls and one boy sit at a large u-shaped table area with their program mentor.

Academic Interns meet with their mentor, Ms. Paton.

7. What would you say to someone who is on the fence about joining?

Tobias: There's something that anybody can do, especially with all of the intern groups. You don't have to be outgoing or feel like a leader: leadership is for everyone.

David: I would definitely recommend it. I'm glad my friends encouraged me to do it. You gain different insights about yourself and what it means to be a leader.

Heiby: Yes, do it! You can see how much effort Mr. Quinn and Mr. Hoffner have put in. Students who want to be there are taking it seriously and if you're interested, it's the right community to join.

*One aspect of the Fellows Track for MLI is one-on-one mentoring. Not all tracks include this one-to-one mentoring aspect, but all tracks have some level of mentoring, often in a small group.


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