Statewide leadership conference lands at Bearden on Friday afternoon

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Emily Simmons

Bearden sophomore Thomas Knight works on decorations for this weekend’s convention.

Emily Simmons, News Editor

The force of leadership will awaken Friday afternoon at Bearden as SGA welcomes 700 middle and high school students from 50 schools across the state for the annual TASC convention.

The Star Wars-themed convention titled “Leadership Awakens” hosted and organized by Bearden’s own SGA runs through this weekend with attendees arriving Friday afternoon, making it a half day for Bearden students.

The TASC (Tennessee Association of Student Councils) convention includes workshops, activities, and guest speakers. It provides learning opportunities and bonding experiences for students all across the state of Tennessee as well as a great leadership opportunity for Bearden’s own SGA members, SGA member and senior Natalie Parks said.

“We have to meet the requirements of TASC, which include having elections for TASC positions, award judging, leadership development, having guest speakers, providing time for students to share SGA ideas with people from other schools, taking care of the attendees which [includes] coordinating meals, hotels and making it fun by planning bonding activities, games, and dances,” Parks said.

The event took nearly a full year to plan and involved some SGA members attending some camps and workshops to become adequately prepared to host.

“A group of us went to weeklong camp during the summer,” student body president and senior Zachary Jones said. “We also attended an area workshop, and some us ran for positions and are now on honor councils within the [TASC] organization.”

2013 was the last time the event was held at Bearden and had an East Tennessee theme, which makes this year’s Star Wars theme unique.

“Many of the conventions have themes that are related to the area around them, but we had already done that when we previously hosted, so we turned to pop culture because there are so many examples of leadership qualities,” Parks said. “For a three-day convention, the Star Wars movies provided a good template because the first day is ‘Discovering the Force’, the second is ‘Learning to Master the Force’, and the third is ‘Taking the Force into the World’ (the force being leadership skills).”

With the vast number of students that will be in attendance SGA members had to come up with a variety of activities, plans, and decorations as well as dedicate a lot of time before, after, and during school to bring the event and its theme to life and make the experience fun for those attending.

“We are having an outing to Dollywood on Saturday, we also are having a glow party Friday night, having guest speakers, group time with people from across the state so they can get to know each other, free time for mingling, and sessions where awards are given out,” Parks said.

Added Jones: “We will have ‘Jedi training’, which will be games and inflatables for a fun introductory event, we have swapshops (which is when students get to share their council’s ideas and successes with other students), and a candlelight ceremony that is a TASC tradition where we induct new members and close out convention.”

Due to the size and importance of the convention, SGA students have faced several challenges along the way trying to plan, organize, and pull off the event smoothly for the many students attending.

“This is on a much larger scale than anything we have planned before and we have to coordinate between so many businesses, groups, and get approval from many places before things can be set in stone, and having planned it over the course of a year, many requirements have changed in that time, forcing us to adapt our plans when they aren’t practical,” Jones said.

Many of Bearden’s SGA members have previously attended other TASC events, so getting to host offers a new perspective and an exciting experience despite the work and challenges.

“It’s the culmination of my TASC and SGA experience the past seven years and that makes being able to go out and host the event exciting for me,” Jones said. “And I’m also excited to see where the next generation of Bearden students will take the TASC convention in the future and how they apply the leadership skills they will learn at the convention in the school.”