“Leaders are made, they are not born,” legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said. The making of future leaders was the focus of an intensive conference sponsored recently by the Association of Christian Schools International in Pasadena.

Seventh- and eighth-grade students from Coastline Christian Academy participated in the 2011 Middle School Student Leadership Conference, which challenged students to lead “with heart, not just smart.”

“Our seventh- and eight-graders know that they are seen as school leaders by teachers and especially by our younger students who count on them to set a good example and to take the initiative,” Coastline Principal Mary Osgood said. “That’s one of the advantages of a K-8 environment like Coastline. By the time a student reaches junior high, he or she has earned the right to be seen and treated like a leader in the school, as opposed to other junior high or seventh- through 12th-grade environments where the student is starting over at the bottom of the pack.”

The conference offered learning in general sessions, hands-on activities in leadership workshops, and opportunities to meet students also in leadership positions from other schools.

The featured guest speaker, Dr. Alan Nelson, EdD, an author and lecturer of management at the Naval Postgraduate School, is considered to be the world’s leading expert in young leader development. Nelson’s nonprofit KidLead organization has developed the premier young leader training curriculum being used globally.

He provided skill-oriented content modeled after executive training programs. This year there was also an emphasis on spiritual leadership and learning how to discern what God expects from those who lead in Jesus’ name.

The leadership conference redefined the leader role for the more than 450 students representing Christian schools from the Southern California region.

“Our Coastline students participated in activities that taught them different aspects of leadership, and Dr. Nelson encouraged the students to identify the unique leadership qualities within themselves,” Coastline junior high teacher Sarah Ryan said. “We came back with a plan of action we created for our Coastline Christian community. I am excited to see these junior high leaders take what they learned at this conference and shape our school while setting the pace for our elementary grades to follow.”

“I learned that leaders are people who help others work as a team,” said Jaclyn Smith, an eighth-grader at Coastline Christian Academy. “The team works together and accomplishes much more than a person could do by themselves.”

Seventh-grader Kailey Strafford added: “I can take away what I learned at the leadership conference and apply it to my life in a way that glorifies God and sets an example to those around me.”

Coastline Christian Academy is a K-8 co-educational, nondenominational Christian school serving the families of Santa Barbara and Goleta, and is an accredited member of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Association of Christian Schools International.

— Kerry Graffy Mariea is community and media relations coordinator for Coastline Christian Academy.