PASC conference

Student Council members from across schools across Pennsylvania gather at Westmont Hilltop High School for a 3-day conference on Friday, Nov. 8, 2019.

Students from across the state are in Johnstown for a three-day event that’s preparing them to be future leaders.

Since Thursday, about 975 student leaders from 89 schools are participating in the 2019 Pennsylvania Association of Student Councils conference that’s being hosted by Westmont Hilltop High School.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Take Your Shot With Leadership” and it’s inspired by Johnstown’s rich hockey tradition.

“This year we received the bid to host it and it’s really exciting,” said Jonathan Rutledge, adviser of Westmont High School’s Student Council.

“For these kids it’s a huge resume builder to be able to say they put together a conference like this, so it’s a pretty big deal.”

The conference schedule features several guest speakers including John “Climber Guy" Beede, a Mount Everest climber, global adventurer, entrepreneur, author and humanitarian, and Charlie Brenneman, a former Mixed Martial Arts fighter.

The program includes an array of leadership-focused workshops developed by student leaders for students.

As part of the conference, students had the opportunity to attend a Johnstown Tomahawks game. On Friday, they attended a banquet at the Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center that was followed by a dance at the high school.

Senior Max Wilkinson, president of Westmont High School’s Student Council and a co-chairman of the conference, said putting on the event was a lot of work but seeing everyone having a good time has made it worth it.

“People are learning new skills to take home with them,” he said. “Each student participates in three workshops or presents a workshop. We also have a lunch, a caucus and summer camp activity rotation.”

Wilkinson said students select which workshops they’d like to participate in.

“They pick what suits them and the motivational speakers are amazing, so I hope they take away what the speakers are saying,” he said.

Westmont junior Lakyn Davis, a co-chairwoman of the conference, said some of the workshops include fantastic leadership styles and where to find them, social skills on public speaking and communicating with different types of people, stress relief, team building and social media.

“I really hope these students take these ideas and implement them into their own councils and allow their councils to take that into the community,” she said. “It has to start with changing it in their council so the council can change it in their school and then go out into the community like we do here at Westmont. Hopefully, they can then do some big things like host their own state conference.”

Cassy Weir, a co-chairwoman of the conference, said it’s exciting to be a part of the three-day event.

“You see everyone having so much fun and taking it all in,” the Westmont senior said. “I hope people get to see how awesome our little town is and take back with them what they learned in the workshops and general sessions to their councils.

“We want everyone to have a really great time.”

The conference wraps up Saturday morning.

Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.

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