Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

During opening night of SALT, students pray for each other’s fears during an icebreaker activity.

Academy Leaders From Across the Union Gather for SALT

Story and photos by LaTasha Hewitt

This past weekend, the Columbia Union Conference’s annual Spiritual Academy Leadership Training (SALT) welcomed more than 220 student leaders and sponsors from 12 of the union's academies, one of SALT's largest groups in its 20-plus year history. Students in grades 9–12 gathered on the campgrounds of Allegheny East Conference in Boyertown, Pa., for a weekend of training and inspiration.

“The purpose is to get leaders together to energize them as they start the new school year. Most importantly, it is to strengthen their walk in the Lord,” says Illeana Espinosa, associate director of Elementary Education for the Columbia Union.

The featured speaker for the event was Andrea Jakobsons (pictured above), pastor for youth, collegiate and young adults at Chesapeake Conference’s Spencerville church in Silver Spring, Md., reaffirmed the students’ decision to be leaders, reminding them, “Every time you say ‘yes’ to a position is an opportunity to be used by God.”

Throughout the weekend, leaders participated in various icebreakers, including one where they shared their fears and dreams. They also participated in breakout sessions and activities that allowed them to share ideas and practice leadership principles such as teamwork and communication. Student leaders from Kettering College (Ohio) and Washington Adventist University (WAU) in Takoma Park, Md., also shared tools for effective leadership. “I enjoyed being around other leaders where you can bounce off ideas, meet people from other cultures and have fun,” says Reese McKoy, a junior from Pine Forge Academy (Pa.).

The three-day training session also brought a sense of camaraderie among the leaders. “In my breakout session, it was refreshing to see presidents from schools that often rival each other help each other out with ideas regarding fundraising, events and dealing with interpersonal relationships in the team,” shares Sara Deveraj, a junior and student association president at WAU.

The bonfire on Friday evening was also a big highlight for attendees and brought to the surface a major need among the youth. “As everyone shared, it really became apparent the need for young people to come together spiritually,” observes Hector Hernandez, a student at the REACH School for Urban Evangelism at WAU. The bonfire also provided an atmosphere for bonding. “Everyone was expressing themselves. It felt like we were family,” says Samantha Flores, vice president of the freshman class at New Jersey Conference’s Lake Nelson Adventist Academy in Piscataway.

Many of the sponsors have been attending SALT for many years, such as Ken Knudsen, high school vice principal from Ohio Conference’s Spring Valley Academy in Centerville, who has been coming for 13 years. “Our students always have a really good experience. SALT energizes them on how to build a spiritual emphasis on their program. They leave with refreshed ideas of what others are doing and how they can implement them when they return,” he shares.

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