LTC History

Our NJASC Leadership Training Conference, Then and Now...

The NJASC's annual Leadership Training Conference (LTC) is the longest continually operating student leadership training program in the United States, proudly "building leaders" in the Garden State since 1956! As our LTC program evolved over decades we've had several homes over the years but the focus has always remained the same - training the next generation of student leaders.

The First LTC

Back in 1955, steps were taken to initiate the first Leadership Training Conference. Sponsors attending the Rutgers Sponsors Workshop and students at the annual business meeting that November were enthusiastic. The executive board and advisory committee of the New Jersey Association of High School Councils (NJAHSC) voted approval, and a coordinating committee was appointed to make arrangements for a Leadership Training Conference for the following year.

The first NJAHSC Leadership Training Conference (LTC) was held from September 2-4, 1956 at Camp Wapalanne, Stokes State Forest in Branchville, New Jersey. About 130 student delegates representing seventy-five high schools and junior high schools participated and then returned to their schools with high praise for the experiences they enjoyed at camp.

The twenty staff members at this first LTC included teachers and administrators of New Jersey schools. Former officers of the NJAHSC then in college and other college students served as junior counselors.

Camp Mason

Both the advisor and student groups attending the 1960 NJAHSC annual convention voted favorably to organize an annual training program to meet the expanding demand of New Jersey's student leaders for leadership training.

After LTC spent its first four years at Camp Wapalanne, the Central Jersey YMCA Camp Ralph S. Mason in Blairstown was selected as the new location for this annual program. (Editorial Note - Blairstown is not in Central Jersey)

The delegates and staff from the fifth annual NJAHSC Leadership Training Conference are pictured at right, in a group photo taken on September 2, 1960 - the first year LTC was held at Camp Mason.

As LTC entered its second decade, many of early junior leaders from the first LTC in 1956 continued through the 1960s and 1970s as part of the adult teaching staff. The program continued to grow and establish itself as the destination for student leaders to take their leadership to the next level. Thousands of student leaders would do just that over the years at Camp Ralph S. Mason, which would serve as the home of LTC for a quarter century.

Fairview Lake

Because of a need for modernized and expanded facilities in the mid-1980s, a new location was selected: Fairview Lake YMCA Camp in Stillwater, New Jersey. As a result of that move, LTC throughout the mid-1980s and 1990s was positioned to grow and support a more diverse program. The annual LTC experience was able to have the space to offer two larger sessions each summer – and reach nearly 100 additional students each year, because of a larger footprint in the hills of North Jersey!

Although each LTC session’s short but packed few days always were centered on a solid curriculum of leadership-related skills and needs, the mid-1980s and 1990s began a process of continuous educational and program review. Since the mid-1980s, there has been an organized review and refresh of classes so that LTC integrates current, modernized teaching methods and tools – and presents engaging topics to advance relevant examples of leadership. Suggestions for new classes came from delegates (Speaking with Ease), staff members (Positive Problem Solving, Team Building) and current events (Conflict Resolution).

Starting in the 1980s, LTC experienced an evolutionary change in the composition of its all-volunteer staff. The Junior Counselor (JC) staff – role models for an incoming year of LTC delegates – had always been and remains comprised of middle or high school student leaders and college student leaders; every JC has previously attended LTC – and returned because of exceptional leadership. At LTC’s inception, Senior Counselors (SCs) were limited to current teachers or school administrators. As the LTC program developed throughout the years, a few college-graduating JCs in the late 1970s were invited to return as Senior Counselors – SCs, adult leaders and instructors although with interest in careers outside of education. That experiment continued and by the mid-1980s, approximately 50% of the LTC senior staff had evolved to engage delegates with diverse examples of personal leadership in myriad areas of interest such as arts and entertainment, business, communication and news media, education, healthcare, government and diplomacy, politics or elected office, military, nonprofit. Since the late 1990s, approximately 90% of LTC’s SCs attended LTC as delegates or state officers; as always, 100% of LTC’s JCs attended LTC as state officers or delegates. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, LTC’s unofficial mantra became “Leadership lasts a lifetime“ and the evolution of LTC’s all-volunteer staff lives that mantra by example.

Moving to a College Campus

After more than 20 years at Fairview Lake YMCA Camp, the NJASC needed to respond to increased opportunities for student leadership and the earlier dates of New Jersey's interscholastic athletic programs and practices. Following careful review and discussion, the NJASC decided to move the LTC program into July so that more student leaders would be able to participate.

With July being the height of the season for summer camps like Fairview Lakes, it was also decided to move the program to a college campus. After a careful evaluation and selection process by our Coordinating Committee, the decision was made to move LTC in 2007 to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in Ewing. The delegates and staff from the second session of LTC 2007 are pictured at left. While a college campus was a very different setting from the camps LTC called home over the prior 40 years, the LTC program adapted well to the change with many traditions continued and some new ones started.

LTC's two conference sessions are held consecutively at the same facility with many of the same staff. The sessions enable student attendees to begin preparation for the coming school year. Although a Coordinating Committee for LTC had been established back during the 1956 start-up, it experienced little change until 1981. In that year, official bylaws were established, along with a process for membership selection and rotation on the coordinating committee. This change reflected the reality that many individuals had gone through the LTC program as delegates, then junior counselors and senior counselors; they remained as members of the LTC staff and continued to demonstrate leadership in a myriad of teaching and non-teaching professions.

A Rich Tradition

For over 60 years, LTC has been the high point in the training of student leaders in New Jersey. Approximately 300 students attend each year, representing every county of the state and a minimum of approximately 100 different schools. LTC's educational content and approach have kept pace with trends (and even been in the vanguard of a few); today, LTC has eleven classes: Speaking with Ease, Effective Communication, Goals for Planning S.M.A.R.T., Meeting For Success, Elected to Lead Everyone, You Make The Call (Strategies for Success), Deal With I.T. (Conflict), Make Your Time Count, Communication Workshop (started in 1973 as Boundary Breaking), T.E.A.M. Time, and L.E.A.D. The LTC staff - about 75 in number each year, almost equally divided between junior and senior staff - continues to demonstrate an exceptional commitment to diversity in leadership models.

Approximately half of the senior counselors are secondary school teaching professionals, with the balance represented by individuals engaged in widely varying professions. This unique mixture includes successful professionals in broadcasting, law, insurance, music, theater, and medicine as well as a host of other fields - and is an essential component to the unparalled educational experience provided each year to the delegates of LTC. More than 60% of our senior counselors were delegates and/or junior counselors (JCs) at LTC during their high school years. As always, the Junior Counselors remain critical to the success of LTC. Evidence of the valuable role of the JC is that a high percentage of delegates from the previous year's LTC apply for one of the few coveted open spots as a JC; LTC accepts only a limited number of new JCs in a typical year.

New Jersey and Beyond

Over the years there have been a number of delegates from outside the Garden State who have joined us at LTC to see what leadership training is all about in New Jersey. in fact, some of our out-of-state delegates have returned to become staff members that remained with the program for many years. However, in one particular year we had a delegation who came a VERY long way to experience our LTC program...

In 2013, the reach of LTC extended beyond the borders of New Jersey and even the United States as a delegation of twenty-eight students and three advisors from Oxford International School of Panama City, Panama joined us. Their active participation in the first session of LTC that year marked the centerpiece of a nine day trip to the United States, which included touring Philadelphia and New York City. This trip actually fell in the middle of their school year, which runs from March to December. Our LTC Staff and their fellow delegates learned as much from our Panamanian friends as we hope they did from their active participation in our LTC program.

LTC Today

A unique moment took place during the first session of LTC in 2014, when for the first time ever SIX Executive Directors of NJASC were present in the same room. The occasion was the celebration of 25 years of service for Senior Staff members Jonathan Peck and Karl Riehl. Pictured at right are Lou Miller (2006-present) and Wendy Booth Sitzler (2005-present), Joe Fasanella (1995-2005) and Jim Nolan (2001-2005), Walt and Beth Angilly (1980-1995).

In addition, every living 25+ year current and past LTC Staff member was present at the Birthday Dinner that evening. Many, including Jonathan Peck and Karl Riehl, were delegates themselves before joining our staff as Junior Counselors and eventually Senior Counselors. The lessons learned and friendships made at LTC have been an important part of their lives through high school and college as well as their development into successful professionals.

In 2017, LTC finally broke the 300 delegate barrier at The College of New Jersey, welcoming a total of 352 delegates to our 62nd annual NJASC Leadership Training Conference - this was the most delegates at LTC in over three decades. In 2018, this total increased to 372 delegates which included 196 in the first Session alone. Since that time, over 300 delegates have attended LTC each year with a number of new schools sending delegates to participate.

In 2020 and 2021, LTC became "Virtual LTC" for its 65th and 66th birthdays, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic that forced extended closures of schools and social distancing. Over 200 delegates and 70 staff members participated on their laptops as we affirmed that - pandemic or not - LTC remains the oldest continually operating State student leadership training conference in the nation. We returned to The College of New Jersey in July 2022 for our 67th annual LTC, which consisted of three single-day sessions in person. The following year, 2023, we welcomed over 230 delegates in marking the return to a full overnight program with two sessions of three days and two nights each.

We encourage you (or your child) to join them (and us) as we continue to make history at LTC!