March 26, 2014

Youth Leadership Conference promotes character


PLATTSBURGH — When Shaun Derik was a child, his mother helped him see that he would never be a great pianist if he didn’t practice.

“She taught me something called, ‘Success doesn’t happen on accident; it actually happens on purpose,’” the keynote speaker told a crowd of area high-school students who gathered in Clinton Community College’s Stafford Theater for the 10th-annual Youth Leadership Conference.

Seated at a piano, Derik, who incorporates music into the motivational presentations he gives to young people nationwide, demonstrated the power of persistence by first playing a song the way he had as a beginner — slowly and with uncertainty.

As he spoke and continued to play, however, the notes became more fluid and his fingers more confident in their placement until his hands floated across the keys.

Whatever you practice, you become more of, Derik told his audience.

“Success is very intentional,” he said.


Presented by the Clinton County Youth Bureau, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Eastern Adirondack Health Care Network and One Work Source, the conference welcomed students from across Clinton County to spend the day nurturing their inner leaders.

Each of the county’s high schools was invited to select 15 students to take part in the event, which, in addition to Derik’s presentation, featured 13 workshops.

“Community members generously donate their time and expertise to present workshops for us,” Youth Bureau Supervisor Kim Crockett told the Press-Republican.

Students could each participate in three of them.

“We send a letter to all the schools and say, ‘It’s a leadership conference, but don’t just pick the kids who are already leaders; pick the kids who have potential,” Crockett said. 

Each year, the event is organized by a planning committee comprising local students affiliated with the Youth Bureau.

“The kids do the planning, the organizing and the designing of the conference, and those are great skills,” Crockett said.


The committee also chooses the event’s theme, which this year, was “character.”

“The main message that we want to get across is your character affects all the other students at your school, all the people you meet, and you want it to have a positive effect, not a negative one,” Planning Committee member Rachel Knapp, a senior at AuSable Valley High School, told the Press-Republican.

“If you don’t have a good character, you really don’t have the foundation for anything else,” added fellow committee member Matt Rine, a Peru High School junior. 


Rine also led one of the workshops, titled “Geocaching — The Real World Treasure Hunt,” marking the first time a committee member has done so.

“With geocaching, first of all, you have to be a leader… and since it’s outdoors, it’s all about being aware of the environment and protecting the environment and all that sort of stuff,” he said.

Other workshop topics included self defense, street smarts, teamwork, applying to college and combating bullying.

In addition, Derik led a workshop about becoming an agent for change and projecting one’s true self in a world where social media and reality television have made disrespecting others an acceptable practice.

“I hope kids realize the impact that their character can have on other people because it’s honestly, like, one of the first things you realize about a person,” Knapp said.

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