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Conference helps young leaders learn to lead

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By Brian Blair

Michael McKinney once said “Leadership is intentional influence.”
High school students do not always think about the fact that they are leaders. This summer the Kentucky High School Athletic Association wanted to change that.
On Aug. 20 in Lexington and on Aug. 21 in Bowling Green, the KHSAA hosted the HYPE Student Leadership/Sportsmanship Conference. The idea was to teach student athletes from all across the state what it takes to be effective leaders.
Eighteen juniors and seniors from Owen County High School attended the conference in Lexington. The students were selected by their coaches.
Owen County Athletic Director T.J. Wesselman said the conference provided the chance for the young people to learn a valuable lesson.
 “The HYPE Conference was an opportunity for our student-athletes to realize the impact they have on others,” Wesselman said.
HYPE stands for “Helping Young People Excel.”  During the conference, students heard from different keynote speakers and attended four breakout sessions. The sessions focused on leadership, teamwork, hazing and responsibility.
Courtney Waldrop, Madison Gamble and Claire True,  three volleyball players who attended the conference, said the conference was fun and they felt like they learned what it took to be a leader.
For this trio, the conference helped them to understand that whether they want to be or not they are role models.
“Someone is always watching you,” True said. “If you’re good, then people are going to want to be just like you. If you do something bad, they are going to think is okay.”
One of the speakers who impressed the girls was former University of Kentucky basketball player Cameron Mills.
“He was a really good speaker and put it into perspective about how everyone is watching what you are doing and you have to set a good example,” Gamble said.
Another of the speakers the student-athletes heard from was Jason Hewlett, whose message was “Standing Out in a Sit Down World.”
Wesselman said Hewlett encouraged the students to not be afraid to stand up or stand out when everyone else sits down and won’t stand up for what is right.
“Because of what they do, who they are, and how they represent Owen County High School, they are always looked at,” Wesselman said. “No matter if its during a game, in class, in practice or somewhere in the community they are leaders.”
Waldrop, True and Gamble said what they learned in Lexington will not only help them now while they are in school but will also benefit them once they are no longer in school and are a part of the workforce.
“You are always going to be a leader,” Waldrop said, who also acknowledged that someone is always watching.
Wesselman believes what these students learned in Lexington could have long lasting affects on not just themselves but on those around them.
“The conference did not make them a leader. They were leaders long before we arrived and their leadership is valuable to the success of Owen County,” Wesselman said.