In January of last year, when Shelby Dominick Reed was hired as Lander University’s director of Student Activities, one of the tasks she was given was reviving the Lander Leadership Conference.
She seems to have done just that.
The two-day event, held last Friday and Saturday, attracted nearly a hundred people and featured keynote speakers Jess Eckstrom and Antonio Neves, who inspired those present with their personal stories and “can-do” attitudes.
Eckstrom, a recent graduate of North Carolina State University, told the crowd how she learned, while working for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, that young girls loved to wear headbands instead of wigs after losing their hair to chemotherapy.
The discovery led her to start her own business, Headbands for Hope, whose mission is to brighten the lives of children afflicted with cancer. For every headband purchased from Headbands for Hope, the company gives one to a girl with cancer and donates a dollar to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to fund childhood cancer research.
Eckstrom faced setbacks in her quest to become CEO of her own company and said that would-be entrepreneurs in the audience would face setbacks, too.
“Sure, it’s scary. But it’s okay to take risks. Coloring outside the lines can lead to amazing things,” she said.
Neves, a graduate of Western Michigan University, told the crowd how he went from having only $600 in his pocket to a high-profile career in the television industry with top networks including NBC, BET, Nickelodeon and PBS.
To accomplish such a change, he said, one has to be willing to “get uncomfortable” and push oneself to the next level.
Another key, said Neves, a former NCAA Division I student-athlete, is to have what he called a “walk-on mentality,” which means “finding ways to stand out.”
He cautioned those present to steer clear of “thieves of ambition,” whom he defined as people who “drain your energy.” Instead, one should surround oneself with “allies of glory — people who support you, who encourage you, who hold you accountable to be the best version of yourself.”
Neves believes that “breakthroughs come in small steps, one step after another.” He encouraged those in attendance to “earn small victories every single day.”
Brandon Patterson, a senior math major from Greenville, said he found this year’s leadership conference to be “a very inspiring experience. It let me know that there are a multitude of options out there and that the only person holding me back from reaching these goals is myself.”
Dominick Reed concurred, calling this year’s leadership conference “a tremendous success.”
Elaborating, she said, “our participants made the choice to attend a leadership conference on a Friday night and Saturday morning to better themselves and gain insight on leading organizations. This says quite a bit about their priorities and desire to grow as leaders.”
She added, “The messages shared by our presenters were on target and provided valuable insight for leading with positive strategies. I’m very proud of what we accomplished at the Lander Leadership Conference this year.”