On Feb. 25-27, four Missouri Western students participated in the 37th annual Missouri Governor’s Student Leadership Forum.
The group was composed of Taylor Edwards, Artemii Udovenko, Daraja Pollard-Scott and Mya Riley.
The Forum is a leadership program that first began in 1986. It aims to assemble students of all different backgrounds from across the state to teach them what it means to be an exceptional leader, using examples such as Jesus of Nazareth, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
The students selected to attend the Forum travel to Jefferson City, Miss. and hear from several influential speakers, including Governor Mike Parson.
Taylor Edwards offered her view of the Forum. She explained why she was first interested in the event.
“I’ve always been interested in civic leadership. Actually, my Girl Scout Gold Award project was called Young Voters Committee, and I did a lot of work at the capital in Kansas. It seemed similar to me and my interests.”
She spoke about her favorite part of the trip, when the group visited the Jefferson City Correctional Center.
“We heard from offenders that were in the prison for life,” she said. “They have completely turned their life around. They told us how to keep an open mind and how to be a leader when things are hard. I think that was one of the most influential parts of the whole weekend.”
When asked about the most valuable thing she learned from the experience, Edwards described a critical facet of leadership.
“The most valuable thing that I think I learned is it’s okay to get uncomfortable as a leader, and it’s okay to be vulnerable because in the end, leadership is about how you affect lives, and it shouldn’t be about how you affect your own life.”
Artemii Udovenko also spoke about his experience while attending the event and the focus of the Forum.
“It was not about leadership in the traditional understanding of it,” he said. “It was different. We focused a lot on servant leadership.”
When asked which speaker stood out to him the most, Udovenko said Governor Parson without hesitation.
“I actually got to talk to him one-on-one. He was a very interesting person to talk to—a very kind person. He shared his experience, and he has a lot of it. He talked a lot about how leadership and values interconnect and how his faith and his values help him make tough decisions.”
Udovenko expressed how the event benefited him.
“[It was] a great opportunity for networking or meeting new people,” he said. “It really helped me advance my leadership skills and made me more organized in general.”
He also spoke about the biggest takeaway for him.
“We should always have some values to determine how to do things—that moral compass if you will. Understanding who we are in that sense and what drives us [is] important in everything.”