Leadership: Through Students’ Eyes
By Michele-Ange Dagrain (computer science, class of 2013) & Samuel Polidor Accius (industrial engineering, class of 2014)
August 2, 2012
This year, in our first year of leadership class, we got more than what we were expecting. Our first semester was really interesting. Our leadership teacher, Meaghan, introduced us to Dr. Zenkov from George Mason University. He came to work with us on a project called “Through Students’ Eyes,” or TSE, which aims to identify leadership through photography (click here to see our curated slideshow). Dr. Zenkov gave all of us a digital camera and asked us to take pictures that answered four guiding questions: What are the most important needs in your community? What types of leadership are required to address these needs? How might you play a leadership role in addressing these needs? What roles do education and school play in helping you to serve as a leader? Each week, we took 20 photos and wrote a paragraph about one of them. We posted our photo and paragraph to the TSE social network site, where we were also able to comment on the inspiring photos posted by other people around the world who are participating in the project. We all waited eagerly for comments on our own postings, and would complain to our classmates when we didn’t receive any!
In writing the paragraphs to accompany our photos, we had to respect the six traits of writing: ideas, organization, sentence fluency, conventions, voice, and word choice. It was not easy but it was enlightening, and we were so proud of ourselves after writing a good paragraph. The experience truly gave us the opportunity to improve our communication skills about leadership. We, as leaders, need to communicate fluently in order to have better interactions with our community and to make people understand us. We have made a lot of progress in our writing, though we know it is an ongoing process that we will continue to pursue.
Through the TSE project, we came to realize that identifying leadership through photos is not difficult at all because examples of leadership are everywhere! However, we sometimes discovered a lack of leadership in our community, or a lack of initiative for change. We know there are people who are willing to change things, but sometimes they are just lost in the Haitian system. After discussing this many times in class, we finally decided to begin some projects based on the needs we identified in our communities. These projects include hydroponic food growing, mentorship, helping to organize a library at an elementary school for street children, encouraging civic engagement among Haitian university students, and empowering disadvantaged children through soccer.
We would like to thank our teachers, Dr. Zenkov and Meaghan, for their work and for making our brains work so hard. We used to hold our heads in defeat when people asked us to reflect upon the difficult, seemingly impossible, situations in our community. And when we felt it was too difficult to articulate the situation, they guided us to open our eyes and find words to express what is happening in Haiti today.
“Through Students Eyes” was such a great experience. It linked us to other students all over the world and it allowed us to share ideas and pictures with them. It also showed us how powerful pictures are and how many things we can learn just by looking at them. The experience of taking pictures helped us analyze images that we pass by every day and never actually see. It increased our capacity for interpretation and now every single picture can be a source of inspiration. In conclusion, the TSE experience was really exciting, and we loved it!
Click here to view a gallery of selected “Through Students’ Eyes” photos and essays by HELP students.