FARMINGTON — Before the school year kicks off, a group of Farmington High School students attended a new leadership conference aimed at helping them develop leadership potential and gain insights they can apply in the classroom.

Sixty-eight students took part in the first Farmington High School Student Leadership Conference on Monday and Tuesday at the Piñon Hills Community Church Leadership Conference Center. The students participated in workshops and group exercises to learn about leadership and how to apply those skills at school.

The conference's goal was to increase student leadership at Farmington High, said Stacy VanMeter, a guidance counselor at the school.

Ben McCune and Kaznhia Small speak on Tuesday during the Student Leadership Conference at the Piñon Hills Community Church Leadership Conference Center in
Ben McCune and Kaznhia Small speak on Tuesday during the Student Leadership Conference at the Piñon Hills Community Church Leadership Conference Center in Farmington. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

"Our core objective is that they are capable of going into a classroom and leading a classroom and delivering curriculum in a meaningful way to their peers," VanMeter said.

Teachers and club sponsors nominated students to participate in the conference based on leadership skills. Students at the conference were members of the National Honor Society, school sports and other clubs and activities.

A variety of speakers talked to students during the two-day conference, sharing their insights about leadership.

Speakers included Kyle Rhodes, a member of the Farmington school board and president of Process Equipment and Service Company, San Juan County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter, Masada House founder and director Su Hodgman and Ron Martin, vice president of Panasonic Hollywood Labs.

Benedikte Whitman, president and chief professional officer of the Farmington Boys and Girls Club, spoke about using leadership in the community. Whitman used the character Capt. Jean-Luc Picard from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" as example of high-quality leadership abilities.

Whitman talked about how leaders face ethical and moral decisions, the importance of developing a team of people you can trust and how leaders are able to listen and admit when they are wrong.

Chris Moore talks on Tuesday at the Piñon Hills Community Church Leadership Conference Center in Farmington during Farmington High School’s
Chris Moore talks on Tuesday at the Piñon Hills Community Church Leadership Conference Center in Farmington during Farmington High School's first-ever Student Leadership Conference. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

"People in authority are afraid to admit they are wrong," Whitman said.

Students took time Tuesday afternoon to reflect on the lessons they learned in the group activities and through the San Juan College High Endeavors Challenge Course.

Senior Ben McCune shared he learned to work with a group and trust people more. Before, he said he preferred to work alone most of the time.

"I'm not a very trusting person, but to complete the course, you have to learn to work with people, and that's one of my weaknesses," McCune said.

McCune and junior Alexus Sisneros both said lessons from the conference can be applied at Farmington High.

"In the student community, there is a lack of leadership. Pretty much everyone is fighting each other to be on top," McCune said. "If someone is trained in leadership, they will know how to handle situations like that."

Sisneros said she learned part of being a leader means stepping back and listening to other voices in a group to make the best decisions.

"I'm going to try my hardest to use what I've learned here to make it a group effort and a team effort," she said. "Not an individual effort."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 and jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him @jkelloggdt on Twitter.