Source: Grosse Pointe News Online

Day-long conference explores students, North's diversity

by A.J. Hakim Staff Writer

November 29, 2012

As the Grosse Pointe North community grows more and more diverse, Jonathan Byrne and Pat Gast believe, to maximize the school’s and community’s fullest potential, it becomes increasingly important for its student leaders to recognize, respect and embrace that diversity.

To kick-start the discussion and engage student leaders into thinking about the school’s strengths and weaknesses and ways to make an impact, the duo, Bryne, North’s Student Association advisor, and Gast, its activities director, organized a day-long conference Wednesday, Nov. 14, at First English Lutheran Church, and invited Tom Heethuis, former administrator and head of the state-level student government organization, to speak. More than 100 students from North’s multiple student organizations — fine arts, drama, DECA business group, Brotherhood, men’s leadership group, Student Association and others — attended the conference.

“The purpose was to have an opportunity to learn from Mr. Heethuis, who’s kind of a student leadership guru — he’s been doing this a really long time — so that they can get ideas about how to more effectively lead the groups they’re in, get more out of their student activities,” Byrne said. “Specific goals for North, too, we wanted North to be a more cohesive community and we wanted North to be better represented in the larger Grosse Pointe community.”

Heethuis asked students three questions: “When you see the Norsemen logo, what do you think of,” “As a school, what’re we good at,” and “As a school, what can we get better at?” And through a mixture of lectures, workshops and presentations, he had students reflect individually and as a group on each question, steering them toward building a better understanding of themselves and their place in school and their surrounding community. In essence, making them more aware of what it takes to be a stronger, better leader, something Student Association president Sophia Avouris took to heart.

“Going into today, our goals were to discuss our strength and weaknesses, take the weaknesses and make them into positives, and get it out there in the community like that,” Avouris said. “Being the president, coming from how amazing of a leader Mr. Heethuis is, just watching him get everyone together and listening to how he does things just made a huge impact on me and how I’m going to portray things and do things now. It definitely, today made me a better leader.”