Every year, the North Bergen School District chooses their brightest eighth graders, many of whom are involved in their school’s student councils or honors programs, for the annual Gifted and Talented Leadership Conference.
On Feb. 18, the full-day event at North Bergen High School featured lectures from Mayor Nicholas Sacco and Superintendent Robert Dandorph.
This year the new gifted and talented program coordinator, Heather Carline, decided they should not only focus on being a leader, but also on a topic of interest to many students at that age: how students should confront gossip.
“Gossip is a big issue in every school, not just high school.” — Mariah Buitrago
“Gossip is a big issue in every school, not just high school,” said Mariah Buitrago, an eighth grade student from Horace Mann School. “Kids look at the outside, not the inside.”
Interacting with students
One of the first activities at the event was a dramatic reading, a poem about gossip, done by North Bergen High School senior Allen Fernandez, a member of the drama club.
“I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights,” said Fernandez as he read the poem, moving amongst the students wearing a black cape.
“I think it was good,” said Buitrago. “It was creative and fun. He wasn’t just talking; he was interactive.”
Carline said after talking over the program she decided to bring more creativity into it. Before attending the event, students created artistic posters that displayed a word that symbolized leadership to them.
“It’s totally to engage them,” she said. “I want to entertain them...they are a wide bunch, they are a tough audience, math, honors, student council.”
Since it was February, Carline went with the theme of hearts, dealing with issues like breaking hearts, following your heart, and looking inside of your heart. Some of the heart-related projects also had a place in the conference, and there were other events throughout the day.
Kennedy School eighth grader Emily Morales took the stage and sang a solo to her peers.
After her performance, she said that the activities were entertaining and that she was getting the “message” behind them.
“[My peers] can learn something maybe, something will click in their head [that] if they do spread gossip or do make thinks up, maybe they will change,” she said.
“We’re really trying to bring the leader out in these kids, who believe it or not, a lot of them don’t think they have it,” said Carline. “They are shy kids and we’re trying to draw it out of them.”
During his speech, Sacco told the students that when he was in school for his master’s degree he never really thought of himself as a leader or spoke much in class, but one day, without really knowing it, he took the lead in a group dialogue.
“The professor said, ‘See how leadership sprung up?’ and said, ‘This person, I don’t even know what his name is, but he took over the group,’ ” said Sacco.
Sacco said that although some students might not consider themselves to be a leaders, they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t one.
To view a video of Morales’ performance, visit this story at www.hudsonreporter.com.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.