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Superintendent: Student Leadership Summit was ‘phenomenal’

David Krakow



Students from St Pete High joined Pinellas County Schools superintendent Kevin Hendrick for the Feb. 2 Student Leadership Summit at the University of South Florida. Photos by Audrey Ward.

Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Kevin Hendrick had one ambition for the district’s second Student Leadership Summit: To engage more students who would then take their experiences back to their schools and enrich their classmates.   

He left satisfied that the goal was achieved.

“It was phenomenal,” Hendrick said excitedly Tuesday. “I wish every student could do this.”

The district held the summit four days last week: Tuesday and Wednesday for elementary schools; Thursday for middle schools and Friday for high schools. All sessions were at the University of South Florida St. Pete campus, where the first such summit was held in January 2023.

Around 600 students from 136 county schools attended, around the same as last year. In 2023, the summits were held in three successive months. Hendricks explained that the tweaks were worked out from last year and it was simply easier to condense the events, especially with follow up activities planned for March.

After taking over as superintendent in May of 2022, Hendrick held a series of “Listen and Learn” events. Approximately 1,000 adults participated, but few students. Henrick’s light bulb moment came when a county journalism school student asked about student involvement.

The point of the summits is to not only hear from a wider variety of students but also to teach them team-building and leadership skills.

There were breakout sessions as well as team building activities such as a Lego competition, scavenger hunt and an escape room. Several events had a mental health focus inspired by the Sandy Hook Promise, established after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

“There were discussions of mental health, well-being and safety,” Hendrick explained. “It’s a prevention model.”

The goal after last year – and the feedback, including virtual sessions Hendrick held with student leaders – was a way to impact more students. To that end, there will be Say Something activities on March 4 where events will be held in every county school, events, Hendrick said, that will be tailored to that particular school.

“They will all share their successes,” Hendrick said “and then we will again have virtual meetings with the leaders to share everything they’ve learned.”

Having the event at USF gave the organizers the opportunity to also discuss college planning with the students and allow them to tour the campus. Will USF see a bump in enrollment?

“Anecdotally, yes,” Hendrick said with a laugh. “Their (USF) ambassadors ran some of the events. Some students said ‘I didn’t know this was in my backyard.’”



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