Liberty Hill students tackle problem solving at leadership summit in Europe

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The LHHS entourage stopped for a photo on the way to the leadership summit. From left are Colt Spencer, Joely Williamson, Chris Turner, Courtney Smith, Candra Gonzalez, Tabitha Bowles, Madeline Strickland, Emma Hofmann, Carley Maples, McKynzie King, Park Collie, Brianna Edwards, Alec Brand and Justin Henry. (Courtesy Photo)

The LHHS entourage stopped for a photo on the way to the leadership summit. From left are Colt Spencer, Joely Williamson, Chris Turner, Courtney Smith, Candra Gonzalez, Tabitha Bowles, Madeline Strickland, Emma Hofmann, Carley Maples, McKynzie King, Park Collie, Brianna Edwards, Alec Brand and Justin Henry. (Courtesy Photo)

By Lauren Jette

Some Liberty Hill High School students got the experience of a lifetime during an educational tour through part of Europe last month.

LHHS Spanish teacher Jennifer Gonzalez took 15 students on a Global Student Leaders Summit through Barcelona, the French Riviera, Lake Como and Davos, Switzerland June 19-29.

At the culmination of the trip, students participated in a two-day leadership summit in Davos, where they were split into groups with international students and given a problem to come up with a solution for and present for a panel of judges.

“Design thinking allowed (the students) to come up with a solution and present it,” Gonzalez said. “The summit tests their innovation and creativity.”

Junior Candra Gonzalez was part of a group that came up with a smart phone app to help manage a person’s time and schedule.

“There were a lot of different perspectives at the leadership summit,” Candra said. “It was really cool to see it all come together.”

For junior Chris Turner, seeing group members come up with a solution despite language and cultural differences was a new experience.

“It was really fun to see a lot of different cultures in one room, and see how all the European countries live in harmony,” said Turner, who was in a group with students from China, Germany and Switzerland.

The group from Liberty Hill traveled during the trip with groups of students from El Paso and North Carolina, Gonzalez said.

The tour included three days exploring Barcelona, Spain, including the Museum of Ideas and Innovations and a meeting with educators at The International Centre for Montessori Studies Foundation in the French Riviera before ending at Davos for the summit.

“Every group came up with a solution,” the instructor said. A judge’s pick and a popular pick were awarded to two teams.

Although none of the Liberty Hill students were on the winning teams, they still benefitted from the experience, Gonzalez said.

“It was good to widen their horizons,” she said. “I think these trips are important because these students don’t always get a chance to use the brain and their creativity in ways that aren’t tested in school.”

The trip, which was offered to students in the gifted and talented program and in the top 10 percent of their class, was an opportunity for some to leave the country for the first time.

“I had never been out of the country before, so this was a big deal,” said senior Carley Maples, whose siblings had also gone on one of these trips put on by Education First company.

“I have always wanted to travel and thought this seemed like a good trip to go on,” Maples said.

Emma Hofmann, a junior, landed a presenter internship at the summit after submitting an application and two video responses. After participating in webinars with mentors and other interns, Hofmann got to share her story with summit attendees at the beginning of the meeting.

“The students also learned that stuff happens and you have to deal with it,” Gonzalez said, noting that an ATM card got stolen, another one eaten by an ATM, and misplaced passports and boarding passes were all part of the trip.

Maples, Hofmann, Candra Gonzalez and Turner all agreed the trip taught them valuable lessons.

“I learned how to problem solve without being apprehensive,” Hofmann said.

“You learn how to think in a pinch,” Turner said.

“(This trip) prepares you for being on your own,” Maples said.

This is the third trip Gonzalez has organized, noting that the trips include 15 to 30 students, depending on the destination and itinerary.

“We have a very high number of students (who go on these trips) for the size of our school,” she said, including a lot of siblings and repeat travelers. The Liberty Hill contingent for this trip totaled 21 people, including parents and chaperones.

One of the best parts of the trip was making new friends, not just abroad but also here in Liberty Hill, the students agreed.

“I knew who people (on the trip) were, but we all grew really close during this trip,” Maples said.

“Not many people can say they got to explore Europe with friends,” Turner added.

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