The Entrepreneurial Center for Leadership and Innovation
(ECIL) is a program that supports St. John’s mission to prepare young women and men for lives of leadership, achievement and service. This four-year program provides students with hands-on and virtual learning experiences. They learn from successful innovators in diverse fields and use the knowledge and experience gained through their coursework to create solutions to real-world challenges. The curriculum is designed so all students have the opportunity to participate. As students matriculate, they have the option to delve deeper into specific topics or choose additional experiences.
The freshman experience focuses on the values and methods of communication necessary for strong leaders. St. John’s understands that the first step in leading others is to examine one’s values and then learn how to successfully communicate those values to others.
For the Day of Leadership, students were divided into groups to rotate through four interactive sessions on topics including discovering your strengths, the power of communication, attitudes and habits.
Assistant ECIL Director Suzie Kowalewski led the discussion about strengths-based leadership. With the assistance of 10 SJC juniors, a leadership cohort within the ECIL program, Kowalewski and the upperclassmen challenged students to identify and share their own “superpowers” with one another in small group discussions. She also asked them to reflect on how they can share those strengths to serve others. “One of the most powerful things that I discovered about myself and my fellow classmates was how many different ‘superpowers’ we all possess and how we can all use them in different ways to help so many people,” said Fiona O’Connell ’22.
Adam Bradley from Lead ‘Em Up, a dynamic and engaging leadership program that provides spirited live team workshops, taught students about the power of communication. Through role-playing exercises, he helped the freshmen understand the power of the words we use and the importance of speaking with a purpose, being an engaged listener and being a great communicator through “the little things” (e.g., handshakes, eye contact and greetings). Bradley emphasized, “always make sure the words you say are helpful and positive so they uplift, empower and bring others to another level.”
ECIL Director Joe Casamento shared a powerful message about positive and negative attitudes. Through personal anecdotes, Casamento demonstrated how one’s attitude, a set way of thinking about a person or thing usually reflected in one’s behavior, influences success and failure. He encouraged the students to “be positive and help others.”
Social studies teacher Chris Maloney and Casey Morsell ’19 engaged the freshmen on the topic of habits. Through news videos and famous quotes, Maloney demonstrated the power of establishing good habits. Morsell shared his personal journey – from being a freshman with negative habits to a senior with productive, positive habits. During freshman year, he realized his bad habits were impeding his goals to make the honor roll and the varsity basketball team. By removing negative distractions and discontinuing unconstructive routines, he achieved both of his goals by the end of that year. His successful habits eventually led to 26 college scholarship offers. He will attend the University of Virginia next fall. “Changing bad habits for the better can have a positive impact on your life,” said Morsell.
St. John’s is guided by its Lasallian values, and that was apparent in the empowering messages of the workshops and the level of engagement from the speakers and students. “Today was a tremendous opportunity for our ninth-graders to learn from faculty, upperclassmen and their peers about servant-leadership, habits, values and empathy. Taking part in this discourse, which engages virtues that are intrinsically Lasallian, will certainly help them become more self-aware and improve the SJC community,” said Principal Chris Themistos.