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Lehigh plays host to multicultural leadership conference

Lehigh hosted more than 150 high school students on Saturday (Jan. 18) for its fourth annual High School Multicultural Student Leadership Conference. The all-day event took place in Iacocca Hall.

With mentoring from Lehigh students, high school students from 18 Lehigh Valley-based schools participated in workshops that focused on the conference theme of “Trailblazers of Destiny: Who Will Lead the Climb?”

The conference was organized at Lehigh by Tyrone Russell, director of multicultural affairs, who worked with Harrison Bailey III, the principal of Liberty High School in Bethlehem, and Ferdinand Surita, the assistant principal of Trexler Middle School in Allentown, to coordinate this year’s event.

“This is an event that our campus is proud to host,” says Russell. “We are focusing on the next generation of leaders to bring their creativity, energy, intellect and passion to help us address a host of societal issues and challenges.”

Kashi Johnson, associate professor of theatre and co-founder of Red Sun Productions, was the keynote speaker. She was joined by other Lehigh presenters, including Angela Scott, director of academic diversity and outreach, and Margarida Da Graca, assistant director of multicultural affairs.

The philanthropic commitments of corporate sponsors, including Wells Fargo, PPL, KPMH, Easton Coach and Air Products, allowed for free admission for all the high school participants, Russell said.

Bailey said that the Lehigh Valley’s first Multicultural Student Leadership Conference was born of the recognition that “we often call upon high school students to be leaders in our schools, businesses and communities. Unfortunately, there is minimal formal leadership development available.”

Over the past three years, more than 300 of the Lehigh Valley’s top student leaders have attended the conference and have been exposed to leadership training, including motivational speakers, workshops, panels, networking opportunities and college and career fairs.

This year’s event included Lehigh students as mentors, panelists, and college experts, as well as political presence from local senators, and representatives from other Pennsylvania universities.

Organizers hope to expand the event to a statewide conference by 2016, Russell says.

“The community organizations are the ones that are making this possible,” he says. “Their commitment to this nation’s future leaders is both commendable and necessary.

Story by Sarah Seigel '14

Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014

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