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April, 2014

Inspiring leadership

Students get tips for rising to meet challenges

By Jo Heffner

Kwabena Antone Nixon speaks to students

Gateway students benefited by hearing from leaders in the community, such as Kwabena Antone Nixon.

“Linking leaders, launching legacies” was the theme for the Student Leadership Conference held March 27 on the Racine Campus. Students attended career and leadership building workshops, networked over lunch and had a chance to win scholarships and gift certificates to the Follett Bookstore. Students also had a chance to meet the Gateway mascot, Rudy the Red Hawk.

Keynote speaker, author and life coach Alonzo Kelly was energetic as he addressed the students.

“The last time I was here, I said to give yourself permission to be amazing. Just show up,” Kelly said. “Today I’m here to say it’s not enough to just show up. Do something. Your brain loves busy work disguised as progress. A hamster in a cage is busy, but how far did he get?”

Kelly challenged students to create change from within.

“When the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing, that’s when you change. Put your work clothes on. Put your boots on,” he said. “You have to be resilient, which means to bend, or return to form after a period of stress. You want to be a millionaire? Be resilient.”

Rosa Martinez – a student, mother and grandmother – said she learned important life skills at the conference.

“It’s not too late for anybody to go back to school,” Martinez said. “For me, it was hard because I had to learn English and social studies. I had to keep practicing.”

Kwabena Antoine Nixon, a spoken word poet, told students to reach within themselves and transform their lives.

“Your mess can become your message,” Nixon said, regardless of your background.

Kathleen Gietzel, a student at the Burlington center, said she was inspired by Nixon’s message.

“I don’t let negativity determine who I am,” Gietzel said. “Instead, I let it drive me to be the best I can be.”

For more information about the annual leadership conference, contact Vanessa Perez at

Life is Big. Be Prepared.