Learning to lead: TrekNorth student Cecelia Humphrey hosts regional summit
Cecelia Humphrey was named president of the Northwest Division Board for the Minnesota Association of Student Councils, which provides leadership opportunities to students throughout the state. As president, she had the chance to invite student councils and their advisors from across the region to answer the question, “What is Your Why?” right on her stomping grounds.
BEMIDJI — TrekNorth junior Cecelia Humphrey was initially nervous to become a student leader, but after hosting over 200 students from northwest Minnesota schools for a fall summit on Monday, she’s glad she did it.
Along with being the TrekNorth student council president, Humphrey was also named president of the Northwest Division Board for the Minnesota Association of Student Councils, which provides leadership opportunities to students throughout the state.
As the northwest division president, she had the chance to invite student councils and their advisors from across the region to answer the question, “What is Your Why?” right on her stomping grounds.
“TrekNorth is such a small school, and (running for president) was a big step,” Humphrey said. “Just to speak at a big summit like this and represent the area as an Indigenous woman … It was nerve-wracking, but I’m really glad that I did it.”
Answering their ‘why’
Starting off as a large group gathering at the Bemidji National Guard Armory before students headed to break-out sessions at TrekNorth Junior and Senior High School, the morning began with the TrekNorth Choir singing the national anthem and a drum group playing a flag song before the Northwest Division Board took turns explaining what their “why” is.
“It was one of the questions I asked the board to get to know them,” Humphrey said regarding early planning stages for the summit. “It was asking why they were in student council, why they are the way they are and what motivates them. We all agreed that it would make a good topic and main theme for the summit.”
Bemidji State Social Work Professor Ashley Charwood was the morning’s keynote speaker and detailed life experiences that helped to mold her “why.”
“My ‘why’ is to really think about how I can become a great and better version of myself while also building up other people,” Charwood said during her speech. “I also wanted to be a mentor and a role model as part of my ‘why.’”
TrekNorth Executive Director Erica Harmsen spoke to students on the “why” that led to the creation of TrekNorth in 2003, stating that two teachers wanted a school where college preparation, outdoor adventure and service learning were areas of focus.
“They had a dream that kids would grow to be critical thinkers and be a positive force in their communities, local and global,” Harmsen said, “by taking (advanced placement) classes, hiking the Appalachian Trail, hiking the Superior Trail, working in shelters in Chicago … so they created TrekNorth.”
Driving home the theme, Harmsen left off, “my ‘why’ is looking out and seeing all of you who are going to be leaders someday. Right now, you’re learning how to be the best you and how you can help your communities, schools and regions.”
Break-out sessions focused on building leadership skills and knowledge, and included discussions on student council planning, team building and being an elected leader. Leading the sessions included Leech Lake member Arnold Dahl-Wooley and Bemidji City Councilor Audrey Thayer among other community members and educators.
Of course, students would also have a chance to figure out their “why.”
“My ‘why’ is to represent the area and the people around us and honor the Indigenous people which I descend from,” Humphrey said, addressing the attendees.
Striking a balance
Though her October has been a little crazy with planning the summit, Humphrey is finding ways to set limits and boundaries for herself. Such a skill seems necessary as Humphrey is also the president of TrekNorth’s National Honor Society.
“I’m a very big perfectionist and I don’t like being behind or lacking,” she said. “I’m starting to get the gist of how to balance it all.”
Humphrey credits Harmsen, TrekNorth Student Council Advisor Jodie Olson and Northwest Division Advisor Randy Huie for supporting her throughout her leadership ventures.
“Everyone who is helping out with this, they knew I was kind of nervous to take this step,” Humphrey said, “but they’ve been great with me and I’m very, very grateful.”
Humphrey looks ahead to the rest of the school year which will offer more summits and conventions, most notably a state convention in the spring. Addressing a lack of diversity at certain conventions and creating friendships over commonalities makes these events her favorite part of student council.
“Everyone is so nice because they all have the same goals and aspirations when you want to be a student leader and want to have this image for yourself,” Humphrey left off, “and you think ‘this is great because all these people are like me.’”