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Students had a challenge: work in teams to recreate a pattern with a deck of cards while one or more members of the group act as spies and try to sabotage the goal. That is how the conflict resolution workshop of the iLead Program began at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus one Thursday in early November. The 10-week leadership program, led by Student Life Director Kimberly Herrera, has been training students for three years.

Kimberly Herrera heads the leadership program

Nobody knew which roles the other members of the group held and all were working from memory, as they could only go over the pattern for 10 seconds at a time before running back to the other room to rearrange or fix the pattern. The idea is for students to learn how to work together in the face of complicated dynamics when conflicts evidently arise.

In the program, students learn about themselves, teamwork, and community service. Herrera said that oftentimes students think of leaders as the loudest person in the room, but introverts can also lead: “Everyone is different and there are different leadership styles. By the end of the program, everyone realizes he or she can be a leader.”

Elise McPherson, a civil engineering student who is part the program, considers herself a leader and at the same time “one of those shy speakers.” She has been able to hone her public speaking skills in the program through exercises that helped her get more comfortable in her speech and in how she presents herself.

Everyone is different and there are different leadership styles. By the end of the program, everyone realizes he or she can be a leader

A skill that Joseph Newell, a nursing student and part of the cohort, wanted to gain or develop was patience. “I’ve picked up a little bit, but it’s still a work in progress,” he said. “When you work with other people, they’re not always going to be on your time or work like you, so some of the workshops definitely help you learn who you’re working with so you can build patience.”

From left to right: Joseph Newell, Evelina Davlieva and Elise McPherson

The program is competitive. This semester, 45 people applied for 22 spots, but Herrera said students who work hard on their application have a good chance. To apply, students need to be Montgomery College students, at least taking six credits, and have at least a 2.25 GPA, unless they are new to the College.

Evelina Davlieva, also a nursing student, graduated from both the iLead and the Advanced iLead program, which offers more leadership training for resume building and job interviews, and now assists Herrera during the workshops. “I gained self-confidence, as well as speaking and communication skills overall,” Davlieva said. In her new role, she is able to guide new students. “There is a huge transition between when they first start and when they graduate. I don’t think they see it in themselves, but we see it from the outside. You see people actually grow.”

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