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SHEPHERDSTOWN, W. Va. — Fifty-three new students at Shepherd University, with the support of fifteen peer mentors, prepared for their transition to college through participation in the Shepherd L.E.A.D.S. program offered in partnership with the Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications. 

Shepherd L.E.A.D.S. stands for Leadership, Education, Action, Development, and Service. This new program was available to all new students — residential and commuter, first-year and transfer students. The ten-day program gave students an opportunity to build connections, develop college success skills, and learn about effective communication. 

Exploring community service with intention, the students spent one day working in small groups on campus and in the area. While some students pulled tires and debris out of the Shenandoah River, others helped the Shepherdstown Community Club spruce up buildings and sidewalks downtown. Other groups prepared the Ram Pantry and Ram Closet for the new school year. These programs provide food pantry items and both leisure and professional clothing to students, faculty or staff who express a need for assistance. 

At the end of the Day of Service, program participants gathered to reflect on the varied nature of community service and the needs of nonprofits.  

“The goal of L.E.A.D.S. was to create the opportunity for the students to prepare themselves socially and mentally for the transition to college while also providing leadership skill building for the incoming students and peer mentors,” said Stubblefield Institute Program Manager Cindy Powers. “As one of our workshop leaders, Allison Jackson-Dyer, explained, their generation is ready to speak up for themselves and be heard at a younger age than previous generations.  And to speak up, they need to skill up.” 

Fifteen returning students with experience as campus leaders assisted the program, serving as mentors for the new students. The mentors received additional training before and during the program, with workshops focused on developing their skills at supporting emerging student leaders. 

The first-year students completed work toward First Year Experience (FYEX) courses. Hannah WIlliams-McNamee, assistant director for the Student Success Center, is one of three instructors for these courses. McNamee noted that the FYEX class gives students an opportunity to learn in a small group setting. Students can ask questions and observe that their fellow students are also starting college for the first time.  Additional faculty and staff visit the classes to present on topics such as college writing and accessing campus resources. 

During L.E.A.D.S., all participating students were able to complete several requirements toward the Stubblefield Institute’s new Community Leadership and Civil Advocacy Certificate, which is offered in partnership with Shepherd University.  This 50-hour initial level of the certificate focuses on developing general leadership and civil discourse skills and exploring civic engagement. It is available to all Shepherd students at no additional cost and is appropriate for all majors. The second level of the certificate will launch in 2024. 

Source: The Journal