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Bri Ferraro holding her gold medallion
Bri Ferraro holding her gold medallion
Bri Ferraro

COVID-19 changed a lot about campus life, from classes to extracurricular activities. But this semester, Spartans still found a way to get involved, develop their leadership skills, and serve the community.

Over 350 Spartans participated in UNC Greensboro’s Leadership Challenge Program, and 41 of those students completed about 800 hours of service, despite being in the middle of a pandemic.

Coordinated by the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement, the program engages students in leadership education, training, and development through service opportunities on and off campus. The goal of the program is to prepare students to serve as lifelong change-makers in the global community.

Students begin the challenges at the Bronze level, where they refine their personal leadership philosophy through participation in workshops, service initiatives, learning resources, and group leadership coaching. Once the Bronze level is completed, students practice their leadership philosophy and reflect on their understanding of leadership at the Silver level. At this level, students receive one-on-one coaching, work on personal growth, and learn how their actions impact themselves and their communities. Students pursuing the final Gold level identify a need in the community and work with a cause or organization of their choice in a leadership community-based project.

Before the virus hit the United States, the program launched a virtual version of the program geared for adult, graduate, and distance-learning students. When classes moved to a virtual format in March, all students participating in the program switched to the virtual version as well. Students were able to continue the program in a variety of different ways, such as completing a written assignment in lieu of in-person service hours and participating in online leadership workshop modules or online leadership development activities. Gold level participants could work in a small group while following safety protocols with one of the program’s community partners.

The move to the virtual format of the program was met with an increase in students beginning the Bronze level, with about 300 students signing up this semester.

“The Leadership Challenge Programs offers students a way to connect to their peers, to campus, and to the community, and I think a lot of students, especially freshmen, sought after that this year,” said Lindsey Woelker, interim director and associate director for leadership in the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement.

Eighty-three bronze medallion recipients and 20 silver medallion recipients were honored this semester with a virtual ceremony on Nov. 19.

Bri Ferraro, a dual elementary education and special education major, was honored as the one student to complete the Gold level this fall.

Originally, Ferraro wanted to work with students on the autism spectrum for her community-based project, but the pandemic altered her plans. One of her professors in the School of Education told her about a tutoring opportunity for children with disabilities, and she saw it as the perfect way to not only complete the Gold level and give back, but also to gain experience as an educator.

Ferraro tutored six kindergarten students for 10 hours a week over the summer, providing them with a real classroom experience that they would not have had otherwise. She set up a safe, socially-distanced classroom setting, implemented a regular schedule, and even taught lessons on handwashing and protecting oneself from getting sick and spreading germs.

“I want students to like school, so being able to provide these kids with a real kindergarten experience – and helping out the parents who weren’t sure how to juggle the pandemic and virtual learning – was so fulfilling for me professionally and personally.”

Learn more about the Leadership Challenge Program at uncg-leadershipchallenge.com. Sign ups for the Bronze level will open in earl January. For more information and to stay updated, sign up to receive the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement newsletter.

Story by Alexandra McQueen, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications

 
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