Dragon Leadership Academy Prepares Student Leaders

October 19, 2020

The Dragon Leadership Academy, a new six-week program to develop leadership skills, launched on Thursday, Oct. 15.  Twenty-two Upper School students accepted nominations to the Academy from their team coaches or activity advisors.  The Academy is the creation of Mark Rickard, who teaches Leadership at SGS and Sports, Exercise & Health Science classes, as well as advising the Associated Student Body officers.  "I strongly feel that a program teaching crucial components of leadership could be of great benefit to the students and their teams, strengthening our kids' abilities to lead and inspire their peers," says Mark, who sent out the nominations to students sealed with a wax dragon.
The leadership curriculum consists of 90-minute online sessions over six consecutive weeks with a focus on three key facets of leadership: finding your purpose, broadening your perspective, and developing tangible leadership skills.  
Keynote speakers will open several of the sessions, including two SGS alumni.  Natalie (Farias) Holloway '16 earned a hospitality management degree and graduated from the Center for the Advancement of Leadership at Utah Valley University, where she currently works organizing executive events.  She will speak on cultural intelligence and creating an inclusive team culture on Oct. 29.  
Natalie "Chessey" Thomas '10 played on the nationally ranked University of Tennessee women's golf team before filling assistant coaching roles at the University of Idaho and the University of Washington.  Chessey is now the associate head coach of women's golf at the University of Nebraska.  She will speak on team chemistry, an attitude of gratitude, and crucial peer confrontations on Nov. 19.
Additional keynote speakers include Dr. Tade Ayeni, Director of Diversity and Equity at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University.  His multiple graduate degrees and wide experience in higher education has helped him understand how systems and programs can help or hinder students in their academic pursuits.  He will speak at the Nov. 5 session on equity, inclusion, and leadership through storytelling.
Francesca Mulazzi, SGS Head of Upper School, will keynote the session on Nov. 12.  She has taught at international schools in Morocco, Singapore and China and been a school administrator on the island of Aruba and in Zambia before coming to SGS.  She will speak on effective communication, including verbal, non-verbal, and listening skills.
The Academy is the result of Mark's master’s degree program at Whitworth University in Administrative and Non-Profit Leadership.  "I looked into what extent we, as coaches and advisors, endeavor to provide leadership education during the season for those who we expect to be leaders on their respective teams, clubs and organizations," he says.  After completing the six sessions, Academy students will develop and implement a leadership-based experience within their own teams.  A celebration at the end of the school year will give each graduate an opportunity to present their experience to the Academy class.  
"I believe this program will provide another practical way for us to live our mission of inspiring scholars, athletes and artists to serve and lead," says Mark.  "My hope for the Academy is to lay the foundation for these students to become those who lead."