Leadership Conference at Huron High

Students hear from former Ann Arbor mayor Ingrid Sheldon
Former Ann Arbor mayor Ingrid Sheldon, speaking to a leadership forum at Huron High School.

Former Ann Arbor mayor Ingrid Sheldon, speaking to a leadership forum at Huron High School.

Some facts that students learned about former Ann Arbor mayor Ingrid Sheldon on Saturday: 1) She spent the first part of her schooling, through 7th grade, in a one-room schoolhouse on Earhart Road, 2) she thinks a large part of the mayor’s job entails cheerleading for the city, 3) she doesn’t take herself too seriously. This last fact was demonstrated as she pulled items out of a large “gift box” she’d brought, full of things she said would be useful for students in leadership roles – including a pair of yellow pompoms. And yes, she gave a little cheer.

Sheldon was keynote speaker at a leadership conference held Saturday at Huron High School. The event was organized by the school’s Interact Club, a service organization for  teens that’s affiliated with Rotary International. (Sheldon is a member of Ann Arbor Rotary, which sponsors Huron’s Interact Club.) About 40 students attended from Huron, Pioneer High, and several other local schools.

The Chronicle heard about this event via Emily Hsiao, a Huron senior whom we first met in January. Hsiao was one of the main organizers for Saturday’s leadership conference, held as part of National Youth Service Day.

Sheldon’s advice to students was practical: Leaders don’t have to be the people who have all the ideas and energy, she said. They just have to recognize and support those who do. She described a “spiral of leadership” as starting with one small thing you do, then learning about yourself, doing something more, building on every experience. In her own case, she said she started by volunteering with the Ann Arbor Jaycees, then got involved with the schools and finally in politics. A Republican, Sheldon served as a city council member from 1988 to 1992, then was elected mayor. ”I defeated the woman whose picture is in your program,” she quipped. (Next to Sheldon’s bio, where her picture should be, was a photo of Democrat Liz Brater.) Sheldon was mayor from 1993 to 2000.

So what else was in Sheldon’s box of leadership props? The collection included a book of jokes (sense of humor), a clock (punctuality), binoculars (vision), running shoes (keeping up), canned food (a “can-do” attitude), a diploma (education), and a toy phone that played a busy signal (perseverance). This last one was a tough concept to convey, since most students had likely never encountered a busy signal before.

[Editor's note: After Sheldon's presentation, students broke up into workshops, including one on journalism led by The Chronicle. There, we learned from students that, not surprisingly, they get most of their news from online sources. Yahoo News, USA Today and the New York Times were high on their lists.]

We couldn’t stay for the entire event, so we checked in with Emily Hsiao on Sunday to hear how the day unfolded. She reported that, as a service project, they collected 18 bags of trash from the school grounds on Saturday afternoon. They also brainstormed to come up with projects that address social issues – a “fit fair” for kids to learn about health eating and staying active, and an advice website for victims of dating abuse. “It’s amazing how kids can come up with this stuff with just a little encouragement!” Hsiao wrote in an email.

Some of the students attending Saturdays leadership conference at Huron High.

Some of the students attending Saturday's leadership conference at Huron High. From left: Jeremy Cohen (Huron High), David Wu (Saline Middle School), Douglas Yang (Huron High), Hao Hao Wang (Clague Middle School), Angela Song (Clague Middle School), Trisha Paul (Huron High). Standing: Andreas Hailu (Huron High).