Conference faces students’ decisions for life beyond the classroom

MADISON – What about working as an X-ray technician? Maybe a life in politics? Could I learn about welding? Students at Bob Jones High School considered options during the Alabama Joint Leadership Development Conference.

Officers of Future Health Professionals (formerly known as HOSA or Health Occupations Students of America), Junior ROTC members and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America or FFCLA students at Bob Jones participated in the virtual conference during the first week of November.

The 2020 conference theme, “All In!,” reinforced preparation of the state’s future workforce. “A rallying cry for everyone — every student, teacher, administrator, and supporter,” Bob Jones Assistant Principal Amy Thaxton said. Conference officials said each student can gain leadership skills for future college and career success, regardless of background.

Conference keynote speaker, Jessica Cox, is best known for becoming the first armless pilot in aviation history. Her achievement earned a Guinness World Record medal and TV appearances on “Ellen,” “Inside Edition” and “Fox and Friends.”

Cox asked students to imagine not having hands or arms. She challenged students to put their arms behind their backs and then write their name on a piece of paper with any other body part.

Student Emily Lee learned one mindset for leaders “is taking initiative to add value to people’s lives. The conference made me think about my principles, which I look upon when making decisions that would impact others. They reminded me about the importance of valuing different perspectives and genuinely listening to what people want to communicate.”

Lee appreciated the conference’s focus on how leaders represent and lead people but also serve. “Jessica Cox is an awesome lady who can fly a plane with only her legs. I really admired her perseverance and creative mindset to reach her dreams of being a pilot.”

Another quote from Cox resonated with Lee: “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out … brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”

Student Hannah Evans said one quote from Cox was especially important: “Don’t let limitations limit you; instead, use them to help you.”

“Because of the pandemic, the conference looked a little different this year, but we still learned a lot of wonderful things about leadership,” student Susan Xiao said. “We had discussions about not just how we benefit from being a leader but also how others will benefit from our work through empathetic listening, continuous growth and resilience. It really struck me how different each speaker’s style was but, regardless of the message, they still presented themselves with confidence and patience.”

Teachers supporting the event included HOSA sponsor Melinda Lawson, JROTC instructor Maj. Melissa Lacey and FFCLA sponsor Meagan Fleenor.

For more information, visit alabamajldc.org.

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