December 16, 2009

Promoting leadership

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

School is a place for kids to learn, not only about reading and math, but also about life in general and what it takes to become an upstanding citizen, and that’s exactly what area students learned from a very influential visitor they had last week.
The visitor is one of our state's biggest representatives, but not from a political standpoint. She’s Miss North Dakota 2010 Katie Ralston.
As Miss North Dakota, one of Ralston’s many duties throughout the year is to visit schools around the state, promoting her platform, and last week, students at Watford City Elementary School and Alexander Public School had their chance to hear what she had to say.
“I go to schools around the state speaking to children about my platform, ‘Walk This Way: The Path of Leadership’,” says Ralston. “My platform centers on being a leader. I don’t feel that kids are the leaders of tomorrow I think they are the leaders of today, and that is why I feel it’s important to share my message with them.”
When speaking to elementary-age students, Ralston feels that it is important to really get down to their level and keep them involved. She uses tools like the vowels of the alphabet and the wave to help students realize their true potential as a leader.
“Most kids would never think of themselves as leaders,” adds Ralston. “But they are. And I show them examples of that during my presentation hoping that it makes them realize that their choices are important. My goal is for them to walk away knowing that even though they are young, they are still a leader.”
Ralston explained to students that each of them has someone looking up to them, whether it’s a younger sibling, a classmate, a neighbor or someone they don’t even know, which makes each and every one of them a leader.
“I want the students to know that their choices are being watched by someone who thinks of them as a role model,” states Ralston. “Many of the students I talk with don’t realize that there are people watching them other than their teachers and parents. I use several different examples, something that each of them can relate to.”
Ralston explained to the students that leadership is a chain reaction. She emphasized that each student is a link in that chain and what they do affects the outcome at the end, so whether they are at the front of the chain or the back, each one is still a leader. During this discussion, the students listened attentively.
“When I talk to the students about how leadership is a chain reaction, they always listen attentively, but It’s difficult to tell how many of them are really getting it,” comments Ralston. “Because I really want the students to learn from this I use the wave to show them how the leadership chain reaction works.”
Ralston had the students break into rows and race each other doing the wave. At first it was evident that not all of the kids felt like leaders during the process. However, with a little added coaching from Ralston and a few more tries at the wave, the students began to get more enthusiastic as they realized they were important to the chain, even if they weren’t the one leading it.
“I feel so blessed to have this opportunity. The students of North Dakota are a wonderful audience and I enjoy speaking and interacting with them,” adds Ralston. “Leading by example is hands down the number one way to be a leader, and traveling to schools around the state has given me the opportunity to do just that.”
Ralston is hopeful that her platform impacted the youth of McKenzie County and also that it will reach all of America when she competes in the Miss America Pageant, which will air on TLC on Jan. 30.