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Giles Student Leadership Academy Graduates Twenty-Five Scholars

Left to right: Donnie Ghawan Haith, Shannakay Powell-Lombard, Leah Clark, Charlotte Cox, Daniel Taylor, Rachel Mashburn, Heather Middleton, Jacqueline Morales-Maldonado, Crystal Ann Dugan, Cassandra Guzman, Lauren Elizabeth Webster, Isaac Johnson, Megan Smithey, Annamarie Alexia May, Estefany Guerrero, Cayce Cleghorn, Laura Brown Ingram, Nicholas Wolcott, Caleb Watson, Lindsey Crites, Alecia Dunn, Bertha “Bert” Hyde, and Tierra Locklear.

When Jon and Jackie Giles approached President John Dempsey three years ago about the need for a leadership academy for Sandhills Community College graduating students, little did they know it would become a highlight of the spring term.

On April 5, the St. Andrews Room at Pinehurst Country Club hosted the third graduating class of The Giles Student Leadership Academy. Students received certificates marking their completion of a day-long engagement with local and regional leaders who spoke on topics ranging from ethics and fear to public service and civic engagement.

Themed around the Mark Twain observation, “They did not know it was impossible, so they did it,” the 25 student participants engaged in sessions designed to promote the possibility of success and leadership that lies within each human being.

As college President John Dempsey noted at the outset of the day’s events, “You are the best of the best from the academic, continuing education, student government, veteran, and athletic students enrolled at SCC, and we hope this day’s journey will make you even better.”

SCC Director of Student Life Shenika Ward and Derrick Drakeford, a motivational expert in purposeful living, conducted morning sessions on self-awareness and self-actualization. Afternoon sessions by Habitat for Humanity Director Amie Fraley and Gryphon Group CEO Michael Vaden included messages on work-life balance strategies and separating myth from realities in rising to a leadership role.

Laura Ingram, a second-year scholar from the Office Administration program, noted, “This event was such a wonderful experience. I am thankful for the opportunity I was given to learn from the advice and encouragement of local leaders in our community who sincerely want students to succeed. The invaluable lessons learned Friday will not soon be forgotten.”

The Giles husband and wife team, longtime supporters of the college, shared with the group that such lessons come from life more often than they come from classroom experience and noted that hearing from proven leaders can steer others toward both the success and the sense of obligation to others that come with the leadership role.

Estefany Guerrero, an Associate in Arts major and a first-generation college student, said she appreciated the unique opportunity afforded the Giles Academy scholars. “Being selected to be part of The Giles Student Leadership Academy was a personal accomplishment, and it made a difference in my life. However, I was most impressed with how attending the conference inspired me to work more actively towards my life purpose—that message was life-changing.”

Invited scholars were nominated by program coordinators and department chairs from all academic disciplines.

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