2019 PA Leadership Workshop: As told by both delegates and staffers


Staffers begin to greet incoming delegates. (Photo courtesy of Evie Hanson)

Ana Costanzo and Helena Savage

Delegates discover a zone of acceptance at PALW 

Council Ahluwalia show off their blue pride. (Photo courtesy of Ashleigh Clark)

By Ana Costanzo

Stepping onto the road leading to the Leadership Workshop home of 2019 where loud personalities and reserved minds intertwine to find a safe place at the Triple R Ranch, sophomore Anna Seyrlehner was immediately immersed in the camaraderie of such an event.

“We went to the main area,” Seyrlehner said of her first time at Workshop. “And [staffers] pulled us into a big circle and I instantly felt accepted.”

However, before this high of Workshop began to create a feeling of surrealism, Seyrlehner was left with a nervous buzz, especially with students banging on the buses when driving to the Ranch, edging her mood from an anxious fervor to an increase in terror. “When I got off the bus, I didn’t know anybody,” Seyrlehner said.

Coupled with this anxiety was also skepticism regarding such an event as Seyrlehner thought her friends’ (whose talk of Workshop prompted her to apply) hype of Workshop was exaggerated, an experience that could not possibly be so incredible.

Ultimately, this fear and skepticism were replaced with one of the most “accepting and positive” experiences of her life, highlighted by the leadership skills in which Seyrlehner learned.

Illustrating one of the concepts, Seyrlehner said, “I learned 4D: Define, Decide, Do, Done. This is how you get things done when you lead.” She later explained how her Council of Yellow implemented such a leadership skill: building the idea for a skit, stepping up for a leadership position, and performing the skit as equals.

Though Seyrlehner did not herself step up for a leadership position, she stated her Council of Yellow was very accepting of allowing everyone to talk without officially declaring any one person leader.

As “Keep Climbing Higher” was the theme of Workshop, she explained the reasoning behind the word on the right sleeve of her yellow Workshop shirt (of which counselors choose). “Ours, Frassati, is the name of a famous mountaineer… from Italy.” Furthermore, she said her counselor chose it because he is Italian, combining his heritage and theme to create identification for all in his Council of Yellow.

Another reason for why Workshop impacted Seyrlehner in such a positive way was because of the atmosphere of acceptance.

“You get to get out of your comfort zone, and be loud and be excited, and be whatever you want and no one will judge you for it. You could be in those circles and doing the ugliest dance and everyone would do it with you.”

Of course, besides the councils and memories of such long-awaited hopes of acceptance, the speakers also impacted Seyrlehner, most notably one of the assistant principals.

“Take back your leadership skills to PA,” said Seyrlehner as she recalled assistant principal Ryan O’Meara’s speech regarding Workshop. “‘Apply it, and go for leadership. Do what you’ve been taught to do’… That really stuck with me… He said you got to say your goals out loud because you are held accountable. I said something and now I have to be accountable for what I said.”

Though Seyrlehner embraced her time at Workshop, freshman India Barry was not so enthusiastic of her experience regarding the Triple R Ranch environment.

“… It was… exaggerated and the hype got my hopes up, but it turned out to be something I’d done before, so it didn’t excite me,” stated Barry as she explained she is involved with theater which actively prepares skits, Workshop leaving her grasping for novelties.

Therefore, Barry was left with a repetition of activities which left her stressed and bored as the skit-making process dragged on for two hours, the end product ranging anywhere from two to seven minutes long.

Barry stated the reasoning behind such length of practice time was because in her Council of Green with 21 students, everyone had their own ideas, so “we were trying to pick something we all agreed” upon.

However, there were entertaining moments throughout the Workshop such as the boundary-breaking which delved into personal matters, as well as team activities.

Not only were these experiences valuable, but with the supportive people around her and the advice given out, she felt accepted in this blanket of support handed out to her and all other Workshop delegates.

Similar to Seyrlehner and Barry, freshman Ava Dobbs also felt extremely comforted in the vibrant blanket of positivity Workshop exuded toward the delegates.

“We had a lot of team spirit,”  Dobbs said of her Council of Light Blue, further explaining her companionship with her other council members who always wore face paint. “We worked really well together; sometimes, we would… pick something for a skit and we would make a list and we’d all come to a decision really quickly.”

Leading up to Leadership Workshop, Dobbs was apprehensive of the event, her fears of illegitimacy in the eyes of other students plaguing her rational thoughts of Workshop. However, when she saw the Ranch and experienced the welcoming attitude, listening to the speakers, she felt comforted in her realization “nobody judges you at all” at Workshop, a place which allows everyone to be as “insane” as they please.

In fact, when speaking of this acceptance,  Dobbs detailed how even a man wearing plastic fairy wings and a dress “five sizes too small” with a cut-in-half bouncy ball worn on his head was safe from scorn.

Thus, Dobbs found a home in Workshop, a place where smiles never recede and the behavior of oddballs is joined in with another person acting just the same, according to delegates, this acceptance sparking the air to fill the delegates with the high of Workshop.

Similarly to Dobbs, freshman Shwara Chokshi felt a connection with her Council of Pink, enjoying the experience of connecting with different personalities.

“As [Workshop] is over, I still know [my Council]… when we see each other in the hallway, we say ‘hi.’”

This comradeship allowed an otherwise introverted  Chokshi to shed her skin of reservation and ride with the extroverted personalities, enthusiasm sparking their delight for Workshop, as well as the people.

However,  Chokshi was not always so energetic about Workshop; in fact, before finding a safe place at the Ranch, she was clueless as to what to expect, apprehension plaguing her thoughts.

“At the beginning, there were cheers,” stated  Chokshi. “People who stayed outside of groups eventually joined in.” Thus, the high of Workshop began, this blanket of positivity and acceptance washing over everyone.

Of course, this acceptance truly allowed Chokshi to escape from her sphere of introverted behavior and explore Workshop’s activities with people she does not know, thus allowing her to explore new experiences. With these activities, Workshop enraptured Chokshi in its aura of acceptance.

While Chokshi and others experienced Workshop for the very first time, junior Steven Slawson has attended it three times, this Workshop affecting him in a more personal way.

“This was my favorite year,” said Slawson of the 2019 Workshop, later expressing his devotion towards his Council of Pink. “Because my council was a lot more closer and you can interact more with your council as you get more experience.”

Not only did his Council impact him, but also speaker security assistant Susan Reiser whose “Take it Back” speech was one not emphasized in past years, according to Slawson.

This year, however, the staff, Council, and speakers truly emphasized the mentality of “we’ve got to take [leadership skills] back” and apply it in the community.

For Slawson, he has already implemented his skills, discovering new opportunities for leadership in the form of clubs as well as a newfound sense of friendship as his Council supported him in the 2019 PA musical The Scarlet Pimpernel.

“Don’t be afraid to hold back,” stated Slawson of his lessons from previous Workshop experiences. “Also, don’t let other people influence your decision about applying to Workshop.”

Indeed, sophomore Ashleigh Clark who has attended Workshop twice connects with this feeling of acceptance, as well as this feeling of fear that accompanies entering into the unknown.

“This year, [there was] more bonding between Councils, and while the main purpose of Workshop is learning about leadership, the thing that resonates with me is the bonds I make with my council.”

Furthermore, detailing her relationship with her Council of Light Blue, Clark said her Council won four awards, only one other council tieing with that amount, showing the effort of this Council.

Regarding the name of her Council, Clark spelled it out, highlighting her bubbly and exuberant feelings toward her Council: A-H-L-U-W-A-L-I-A.

This name, according to Clark, is like a form of integration — “we can all unite under one name.”

Though Clark felt this unification with her council, there was apprehension leading up to Workshop of the days to come.

“I was nervous because being in a Council, those are the people you are with the entire weekend,” said Clark, further stating her fear of being placed in a Council unaccepting of her.

“That didn’t happen at all,” said Clark. “We were so close.” Indeed, Clark and her Council were still experiencing the high of Workshop even after the event, as she was eating lunch with her new group of companions.

Besides the camaraderie between her Council, speaker Carolyn Williams impacted Clark with her phrases dealing with maturity.

“[Dr. Williams] was talking about flowers and they all bloom at different times and it… resonated with me because I felt like we’re all on a different spectrum of growth, and it’s okay because we’re still growing. Just on our own time.”

PALW staff put their all into creating an inspirational weekend for delegates

Staffers sing the Heritage song to commemorate the weekend. (Photo courtesy of Quimey Moure)

By Helena Savage

Senior staffer Evie Hanson got 45 minutes of sleep on Saturday night during PA’s annual Leadership Workshop. Despite that, there was nothing holding back all her energy and willingness to continue a weekend of excitement for every delegate. To Hanson, it’s this image of getting “45 minutes of sleep and we’re still screaming our heads off and running around as if we had like 12 hours the night before” that paints the picture of workshop magic.

“At no point should the focus be on me, at no point should the focus be on staff, or their stress or the little sleep that they got,” said workshop coordinator senior Quimey Moure. This is the reason for the workshop’s generational inspiration that leaves delegates and alumni returning year after year.

Workshop weekend is a trademark event for PA, and it is all made possible over 10 months of hard work and dedication. All of the planning took around “easily 500 hours between roundup and staff apps, and workshop itself,” said Moure. All of this preparation is done in complete secret to add an extra element of surprise for the delegates.

Moure and his staffers were responsible for everything from fundraising, painting posters, inviting speakers, organizing the entire weekend to the minute, keeping check on delegate allergies, collecting t-shirt sizes to making sure all permission slips were turned in.

However, all of these stressful and cooperative elements pushed workshop staff to “Keep Climbing Higher,” just as they did for this year’s delegates with this theme. This year Moure developed a series of changes to better workshop and continue to inspire delegates as the weekend progressed. Two of the first changes that were implemented included teaching the 4D decision-making process on Friday rather than Saturday, and adding an extra night of boundary-breaking on Saturday. The last change that was incorporated this year was to eliminate the teacher-student summits on Sunday.

The workshop staff realized that the summits had lost their effectiveness and created Workshop’s Got Talent. “And what they did is they combine and they made a presentation for workshop’s got talent based upon the prompt that they were given instead of doing summits,” said Moure. Workshop’s Got Talent was yet another forum for students to express their inner leadership skills and develop performances to share with the rest of the delegates. Moure stated that in order for workshop to continue its special impact, it was important for this year’s staff and staff for generations to come to not fear the effects of changes.

PA graduate Pharrell William’s mother, Dr. Carolyn Williams was also invited to speak in front of the delegates. The Williams family also provided free Adidas N.E.R.D merchandise for all delegates and staffers.

Although the staff worked its way up in their past four years of high school to reach this point, they were all also in the same shoes as current delegates at the beginning of their workshop experiences. This is the reason for the workshop’s diverse empowerment, because staffers want to use their experiences to secure leadership within the delegates.

PALW staffer senior Naomi Wren didn’t attend workshop her freshman year, but “after my experience sophomore year where I was able to step outside of my shell and find a lot of confidence that I didn’t know that I could have.

“I wanted to be a part of staff because I wanted to make it possible for other people to have the same experience whether they’re there to have fun, or to grow, or to learn things to take back to their clubs or organizations in school.”

“Freshman year I sat on the ground excited, nervous filled with anticipation for workshop,” said Moure. “I didn’t know what was to come, but I was literally trembling and then what I didn’t know is that three years later I would be standing in front of those 168 delegates.”

Workshop has touched and changed so many lives with its 26 year legacy of leaders. After its long history of themes it’s the fact “that teachers keep coming back, that delegates keep coming back, that staff, alumni, that all these people never lose that inspiration and never lose the willingness to inspire the delegates,” said Moure. “And then I mean that’s why it became such a special part of my life and that’s how it’s become really the focus of my senior year.”

The cycle of inspiration that workshop fosters in its delegates and alumni is what defines leadership workshop.

Therefore, as the weekend came to a close and all 10 months of workshop preparation intertwined into a success, the staff could only reflect on the idea to Keep Climbing Higher.

“On Sunday when everybody was crying and so sad to see it go, in reality, I was really ok with it,” said Moure. “I knew someone of those 168 people sitting in the crowd would be the next coordinator or 24 of those people would be on the next staff and that’s all I cared about. I just cared about inspiring that next group.”

To Moure,  the essence of workshop is “putting away your pride, putting away everything and just really focusing on letting your true inner colors shine.”