LeaderQuest grooms future student leaders

Penn State New Kensington is on the verge of getting an infusion of new student leaders. Nine campus students recently attended a leadership conference, and, if history repeats itself, most will assume leadership berths on various campus committees and organizations.

LeaderQuest is a two-day event that brings together emerging student leaders from the Penn State campuses in western Pennsylvania -- Beaver, DuBois, Fayette, Greater Allegheny, Shenango and New Kensington. Held at Penn State’s Stone Valley Recreation Area in Huntingdon County, about 17 miles from the University Park campus, the conference’s mission is to foster a culture of new leaders on each participating campus. New Kensington students who attended the event were Donnaja Ratliff, Sandra Muhhuku, Lauren Smith, Shane Baskin, Mitchell Scott, Ashley Mandich, Whitney Anthony, Jennifer Stewart and Alex Pedder.

“We specifically target students who have yet to hold a leadership position on campus but have fantastic potential to do so in the future,” said Lauren Blum, coordinator of student life at the New Kensington campus.

The conference helps aspiring student leaders develop their dormant skills by recognizing personal values and leadership styles and understanding the importance of multicultural competency. Coupled with increased communication skills and respect for the community, attendees are poised to become the vanguard of campus activities.

A year ago, nine campus students, including freshmen Anthony Maiolo, Simrit Singh and Vincent Palombo made the 131-mile trip to the inaugural conference. They previously held no leadership positions at the campus. Today, all three are deeply involved in extra-curricular activities at the campus and appreciate the opportunities opened for them by the conference experience. All are orientation leaders who assist first-year students during the annual three-day orientation sessions.

“None of the students was more than a little involved on campus,” said Blum, who holds a master's degree in student affairs from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. “Now they are very much involved and served as orientation leaders for fall orientation.”

After last year’s conference, Maiolo, an electro-mechanical engineering technology major from Pittsburgh, joined the Lion Ambassadors and was elected president of the Campus Activities Board (CAB). The Lion Ambassadors is a student organization that serves the student body and alumni by acting as representatives of the University. CAB assists the Student Life Office in planning campus events and activities.

“Some people are born leaders and some become leaders, and I became a leader at LeaderQuest because of the experiences I acquired,” said Maiolo, who was named Emerging Leader at the campus’ annual Academic and Student Achievement Awards ceremony in April. “I chose my role as CAB president on campus because I am more of a silent leader. I love to organize and run events, but I don’t want be in the main spot light. I am good at running the behind the scenes of events and making sure all is good.”

Singh emerged from the conference and landed positions on three student clubs -- CAB, Lion Ambassadors and Engineering. He also was on the set and sound crew for the fall student stage production of “Bat Boy: The Musical.”

“What I also got out of the conference was to not be shy with people who I may not know,” said Singh, an engineering major from Monroeville. “After the conference, I felt more confident in myself, leading me to take part in other leadership opportunities such as being an orientation leader.”

Majoring in engineering and working with the Lion Ambassadors seems to be a common denominator for LeaderQuest conferees. Palombo, a Monroeville native, fits the criteria. He also made his stage debut with “Bat Boy.” In addition to helping build the set for the play, he played the role of Rick, a rowdy, spelunking teenager in the musical. And like Singh, Palombo used the conference as a catalyst for overcoming shyness.

“I chose to go to the conference and take on some leadership roles to prove to myself that I could quit being so shy,” said Palombo, who is listed in Who’s Who Among Students In American Junior Colleges And American Universities. “The best way was to go at that fear directly and be a leader.“

For more on clubs and organizations on campus, visit http://www.nk.psu.edu/StudentLife/ClubsAndOrganizations/clubs.htm.

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Last Updated December 11, 2013