Barry McNamara  |  Published May 11, 2023

Inaugural Leadership Summit

Champion Miller Center Director Regina Johnson ’01 calls event ‘everything we could have hoped for.’

LEADERSHIP TEAM: Monmouth students who were part of the inaugural Champion Leadership Student Sum... LEADERSHIP TEAM: Monmouth students who were part of the inaugural Champion Leadership Student Summit included, from left, Ditza Montesinos '23, Morgan Thompson '24, Marie Vega '24, Nyasaina Kwamboka '23, Gabriela Madu '23 and Jonathon "JD" Diaz '23.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Alexis Martin was in a bit of a rut when her junior year started at Farmington High School, roughly an hour southeast of Monmouth College. A program initiated by the College’s Champion Miller Center for Student Equity, Inclusion and Community helped bring her out of it.

On May 4, Martin was on campus along with several other Farmington students who participated in the Champion Miller Center’s year-long inclusive leadership training. They attended the inaugural Champion Leadership Student Summit, joined by “new friends” from Galesburg and Monmouth-Roseville high schools, as well as by their respective advisers and teachers.

“I thought it would really be a good learning experience,” said Martin of why she elected to participate in the program last fall. “Also, I was kind of in a divot, and I was hoping for a new opportunity.”

UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: High school students who attended the May 4 summit participate in one of the... UNDIVIDED ATTENTION: High school students who attended the May 4 summit participate in one of the breakout sessions.The Farmington students met with Monmouth students once a month, culminating in the summit, which was held on the College’s Reading Day – the day between the last day of classes and the first day of final exams.


A student’s testimonial

“I learned a lot of values that will help me connect with people and teach and learn,” said Martin, who hopes to be a K-12 art teacher and, eventually, a college professor. “I’ve already applied things that I’ve learned to my extracurricular activities, including the theatre department. Everything I hear, I try to apply to my daily life. It gives me a scope and a path and a guideline to help me grow as a person and a leader.”

“Talking to the people from Monmouth, I learned that a lot of them had experienced stuff like me. They heard me, and they understood me. Even though we come from different backgrounds and ethnicities, it wasn’t toxic at all. Everybody was nice and open.” Alexis Martin


Martin was asked to explain to students her age the advantages of learning about inclusive leadership.

“Talking to the people from Monmouth, I learned that a lot of them had experienced stuff like me,” she said. “They heard me, and they understood me. Even though we come from different backgrounds and ethnicities, it wasn’t toxic at all. Everybody was nice and open.”

Martin’s testimony is essentially the idea behind the program, said Champion Miller Center Director Regina Johnson ’01.

REGINA JOHNSON: For our first try, the summit was everything we could have hoped for it to ... REGINA JOHNSON: "For our first try, the summit was everything we could have hoped for it to be."“For our first try, the summit was everything we could have hoped for it to be,” she said.

“Leadership is powerful when it’s used the right way,” said Martin, “and you can always improve. I met with Regina, and she mentioned that you have to have this willingness to participate and to get into the nitty-gritty of it all. I really connected with that.”

In all, about 30 students attended the event, which included breakout sessions on topics such as the three pillars of leadership and growth mindset.

Other ideas from the summit, which Johnson reiterated when the group came together again at the end of the day, included “pull in people who are different from yourself” and “make people feel safe, make people feel included.” Johnson also told the students, “Do all of our role models have to be good ones? Absolutely not. Sometimes you have to learn from the bad ones.”


Mature campus leaders

“When we dedicated the Champion Miller Center last spring, I had already selected my student interns,” said Johnson. “I knew then that with their maturity and leadership, we had the potential to do something special like this.”

Those interns include seniors Jonathan “JD” Diaz of Chicago, Nyasaina Kwamboka of Nairobi, Kenya, and Gabriela Madu of Kingston Bay, Jamaica.

“Truly, given all the obstacles that presented on campus this spring, I couldn’t be prouder of our team and how they showed up and executed with these high school students,” said Johnson. “Nyasaina, Gabbay and JD have also been instrumental in the selection of their predecessors. What this means for next year’s summit is that we are shooting for even bigger. That makes me excited for everyone involved.”

Also part of the team at the summit was December graduate Jake Uryasz ’22, who attended Farmington High School and participated in the College’s outreach when he was a student there. He became a leader of the Monmouth program during his time on campus and was happy to be able to return to assist with the summit.

“I was part of the program at Farmington, and I learned so much from it that I wanted to be a leader in it when I got here,” he said. “I just enjoy helping the younger generation. These are kids that have gone through what I went through. I relate to them, and they relate to me, too.”

“I was part of the program at Farmington, and I learned so much from it that I wanted to be a leader in it when I got here. I just enjoy helping the younger generation. These are kids that have gone through what I went through. I relate to them, and they relate to me, too.” Jake Uryasz


A student who could possibly follow Uryasz’s footsteps is Farmington’s Matai Little. Last fall, the freshman was asked about joining what he called his school’s “diversity committee,” and he was hesitant at first.

“I thought, ‘Whoa! Is this going to be extra homework?’” he said. “On the first day, I was skeptical, but it’s turned out really good. I always felt like I belonged. I met some new people and made some new connections. It was a nice opportunity.”

Little especially clicked with Diaz.

“I love that guy,” he said. “He and Nyasaina are so nice. We sparked up a conversation, and I thought it could last forever. My dad is always late to pick me up, and that day he was late again, but I was even later because we just kept talking and talking.”

“They taught me more than I taught them.” Jonathon “JD” Diaz


Diaz said the program doesn’t only benefit the high school students.

“They taught me more than I taught them,” he said.

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