Our Leadership Training Conference

The NJASC's annual Leadership Training Conference (LTC) is the longest running student leadership training program in the United States. Dr. William Sterner, pictured at left, was instrumental in the development and curriculum of this conference and was a fixture at it for decades. In August 2005, LTC celebrated 50 years of continuous leadership training for the student leaders of New Jersey. In 2007, LTC moved into the month of July and into a new home at The College of New Jersey, bringing a 21st century environment to the state's student leadership experiences.

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 75 high schools and junior high schools returned to their schools with high praise for the experiences they enjoyed at camp. The twenty staff members included teachers and administrators of New Jersey schools. Former officers of the NJAHSC then in college and other college students served as junior counselors.

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. Blairstown's Central Jersey YMCA Camp Ralph S. Mason, pictured at left, was selected as the new location for this annual program. Many of early junior leaders from the first LTC in 1956 continued through the 1960s and 1970s as part of the adult teaching staff. Camp Mason would serve as the home of LTC for the next twenty-five years. The delegates and staff from the 1960 NJASC Leadership Training Conference are pictured below, in a group photo taken on September 2, 1960.

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. After more than 20 years at Fairview Lake, 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. It was also decided to move the program to a college campus, so in July 2007 LTC moved to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in Ewing. The delegates and staff from the second session of LTC 2007 are pictured below:

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.

LTC is 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.

Over the years there have been delegates from outside the Garden State who have joined us at LTC; some (Phil Stewart) have become staff members remaining with the program for many years. In 2013, the reach of LTC extended beyond the borders of New Jersey and even the United States as a delegation of 28 students and 3 advisors from Oxford International School of Panama City, Panama joined us. Their active participation in the first session of LTC marked the centerpiece of a nine day trip to the United States, which included touring Philadelphia and New York City. While they could not attend in 2014, we do look forward to a return visit at some point by our Panamanian friends.

A unique moment took place during the first session of LTC 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 and Wendy Booth Sitzler (2006-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 a LTC delegate themselves before becoming 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 successful professionals. We encourage you (or your child) to join them (and us) as we continue to make history at our 63rd annual LTC in July 2018!