Kevin Smoot’s basketball team might have had more success this past season if he and his teammates had better connections with each other.
That’s one of the thoughts Smoot had while participating in the Brothers United in Leadership Development (BUILD) Summit that the NC State College of Education held Saturday, March 25. The summit brought 130 male high school students, including Smoot, together to receive leadership training, participate in group discussions and workshops, and develop career and college readiness skills while building connections with each other and with college students, community leaders, and NC State faculty and staff. The theme of the day was “Building Together to Create Connections.”
“The summit has made me rethink leadership,” said Smoot, a sophomore at Enloe High School in Raleigh. “I thought leadership was just about setting the example. But leadership is about building connections. I just recently finished a basketball league, and I think if the team had had better relationships with each other, we would have performed better.”
You need a support system and you need to connect with each other to be successful, Regina Gavin Williams, the NC State College of Education’s director of student involvement and diversity coordinator, told the students during a morning session where she explained why the College of Education started the BUILD Summit last spring.
“Before you leave here, we want you to connect with someone. We want you all to truly build together to create great connections and think about post-secondary education,” she said. “Whether you’re in the 9th grade or the 11th grade, it’s never too late or too soon to think about post-secondary education and to form or expand your support networks.”
Williams added BUILD was also designed to expose high school students to diverse leaders, such as Tru Pettigrew, the founder and CEO of Tru Access and author of Millennials Revealed: The 7 Biggest Millennial Expectations of Themselves and Your Organization.
Pettigrew delivered the summit’s keynote address and encouraged the students to think about what leadership really means and to embrace their greatest leadership attribute.
“Leadership is the process of influencing people by providing them with purpose, vision and direction to accomplish the mission for the greater good,” he said. But what separates the good leaders from the great leaders is love.
“Think about the greatest leaders to ever walk this planet, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Harriet Tubman, and Nelson Mandela,” Pettigrew said. “It was their love for people they had stewardship over that elevated them from being good to great.
“Your greatest leadership attribute is your capacity to love. Lead with love in all that you do.”
That message resonated with Smoot. “My mom and I thought it would be a good idea for me to come to [the BUILD Summit] to learn about leadership,” he said. “I’m definitely glad I came. I’m learning a lot that I’m going to be able to apply to life.”
After Pettigrew’s keynote address, the students broke out into 12 groups for concurrent breakout sessions where they heard from speakers that included teachers, professors and student-athletes who talked about mental and emotional well-being, time management and healthful living.
After lunch students participated in an open discussion on “Courageous Conversations: The Male of Color Perspective” and attended sessions that focused on college life and readiness.