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Central forms new student leadership program

Members+of+Redhawk+ELITE+pose+for+a+photo+with+the+Chick-Fil-A+mascot+at+an+event+on+Aug.+18
NCHS Activities
Members of Redhawk ELITE pose for a photo with the Chick-Fil-A mascot at an event on Aug. 18

Redhawk ELITE, a new student leadership program at Naperville Central, was introduced at the start of the school year in an effort to build leadership in school sports and activities.

The initiative includes two student representatives from each IHSA-sponsored program at Central, chosen by each sport or activity’s coach or sponsor.

ELITE (Everyday Leadership Inspired Through Example) aims to build leadership skills and a sense of community between the IHSA programs and throughout the whole school.  

“We noticed that we were not seeing as much leadership in sports and activities as people are readjusting back from the pandemic,” said Samantha Szopinski, Dean of Student Activities.

The program was conceptualized by Szopinski, alongside Athletic Director Chris Kirkpatrick, Principal Jackie Thornton, counseling department chair Jeff Plackett, and dean of students Mike Stock. 

The group plan created by the team began with a kick-off leadership training before the start of the school year, and involves leadership training throughout the school year during SOAR support periods. 

“Each session is a different topic about growth and leadership,” Szopinski said. “What does leadership look like in your sport or activity?”

Senior Julie Vanderbloemen, who was chosen as one of the representatives for girls cross country, said an initial focus of the program was building relationships between the members of ELITE.

“We’re trying to create that team environment within Redhawk ELITE,” Vanderbloemen said. “[We started with] a lot of learning about what this program could be because this is the first year, and then just kind of getting to know people in ELITE better.”

According to Szopinski, the goals for ELITE extend beyond the 70 members of the program.

“I hope that we see the impact throughout the school,” Szopinski said. “I hope that these 70 [students] will spark leadership in their fellow classmates and their fellow teammates, where we’ll just continue to see leadership and a sense of community built throughout all of Central.”

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About the Contributor
Nolan Shen
Nolan Shen, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Nolan is a senior, entering his third year on staff. He is excited to be heading the Arts and Entertainment section this year. When not writing for CT, he can be found playing with the Marching Redhawks Drumline, performing in the Naperville Youth Symphony, eating too much McDonald’s, and watching bad sci-fi movies. Next year, he plans on going to college to study political science and hopefully not flunk out.
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