TICONDEROGA I know why our teachers have been so supportive of the FES program, they really want us to be leaders and succeed, said a Willsboro student on the way home from the first Foundation for Excellent Schools Adirondack Leadership Summit April 19 at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. One hundred students from 10 Adirondack school districts participated in the event that helped the middle and high schoolers develop leadership skills and learn more about preparing for college. Student presenters included Carrie Bishop and Brittney Lynch from Ticonderoga, Cody Whitney and Luke Andrews from Keene, William Gay and Olivia Kelly from Willsboro, and Colin MacIver and Sarah Gibbs from Westport. Paul Smiths College President Dr. John Mills set the stage in his keynote address. What FES does best is build aspirations, he said. No one succeeds alone and wePaul Smiths and FESare partners to help you succeed. Its about access to college and having choices, and you are the leaders that can bring that message to your peers. It isnt enough to just be ready, you have to be ready to succeed, in college and in life. The Adirondack Leadership Summit was a practical and inspirational half-day workshop that focused on the leadership role students must play in making their schools and communities better places. Middle and high school studentsreferred to as Scholarsfrom FES schools in the Adirondacks planned and facilitated the sessions, which included mentoring, pathways to college, family participation, communication, and goal setting. For many of the student presenters, leading 40-minute sessions at the Summit was the first time they spoke in front of students from other schools. Public speaking is difficult, said Amanda from Northern Adirondack High School, who co-facilitated a session on mentoring. We definitely learned a lot from the first session we did and made the second one better. We felt relieved and successful at the end of the day. Amandas principal, John Coughenour, believes the opportunity to meet with peers from other schools and prepare presentations was an important experience for the Scholars. Despite their nervousness, the students had a presence in front of the audience and facilitated conversation with ease. They can accomplish a great deal when they are empowered. The Adirondack Leadership Summit, one of a dozen FES-sponsored leadership gatherings throughout the country, was the first conference held at The Wild Center. In evaluations of the Summit, students responded that because of the event they would be better leaders in their schools and communities. Many remarked about the importance of speaking in front of their peers and having an opportunity to meet students from other schools. Another common theme was the need to prepare for college early, including taking the right classes, being involved outside of class, looking for scholarships, and visiting campuses early. FES is a nonprofit organization committed to raising the academic aspirations and performance of under-represented youth so that they can prepare for, access, and be successful in college. Currently, FES works with 110 schools and districts nationwide that partner with 175 colleges and universities. Since its founding in 1991, FES has helped 140,000 under-served youth in 350 schools nationwide strengthen academic performance, graduate from high school, and pursue college.