KO’s Lunch and Lead program has encouraged leadership within its members through student-organized guest speaker events. The group continued this initiative on March 21, 2021, when Scott Pioli joined the KO community via Zoom to share insight from his career experience.
Scott Pioli is an American football executive who most recently worked as the Assistant General Manager for the Atlanta Falcons. In the past, he has worked as an NFL analyst for NBC Sports’ “Football Night in America,” NBC Sports Network’s “Pro Football Talk,” Sirius XM NFL Radio, and the NFL Network. Pioli’s extensive experience in the field of professional sports has contributed to his wealth of information, which he shared with the KO student body during the Lunch and Lead program.
The Lunch and Lead group is made up of an executive committee, and members of this committee have the responsibility of generating a list of individuals with careers students would be interested in hearing more about. “It’s meant to be a conversation about how that person got to where they are,” math teacher and Lunch and Lead faculty advisor Sandi Goss said, “so, the intent is to facilitate a discussion where questions and answers are a major part. The speaker shares a bit about themselves, about how they got to the point they’re at now careerwise, and then opens the discussion up for questions from the students.”
So far, Lunch and Lead has hosted professionals from a wide variety of fields including neurosurgery and musicianship, but they had yet to host a professional in the field of athletics, which is partially what sparked junior and executive committee member JJ Kanaan’s interest in bringing Scott Pioli in for an event.
For each speaker event, a student from the executive committee takes the lead in coordinating the event. JJ was the student who took the initiative in reaching out to Mr. Pioli and organizing the event over the course of a few weeks. “I’ve always been interested in sports, so when I saw Scott Pioli’s name on the list of possible guest speakers, I was eager to do what I could to have him join us during Lunch and Lead,” JJ said. “I know there’s a lot of other people in the KO community who are really into sports, and to be able to have a conversation with a personality in professional athletics broadcasting and analyzing is a really amazing opportunity.”
The event featuring Mr. Pioli was a definite success. “It was our highest turnout to date; the attendees were varied and we reached a wide audience across the community,” junior Ashleigh Stepnowski, co-leader of Lunch and Lead, said. “I would say the KO community as a whole learned a lot from the event. Mr. Pioli had a lot of great insights, not only on the world of sports but also on social initiatives and leadership as a whole.”
Students asked about Pioli’s work in the NFL, his work in social justice, and more about how he rose to prominence. He provided enthusiastic insight, responding to each student personally with in-depth answers. He spoke passionately about his work in social issues and how important it is for him to use his position and prominence to spread awareness about issues he cares about.
The Lunch and Lead program emphasizes the importance of teaching their council of students important leadership skills. “Some of the big skills I feel the Lunch and Lead process teaches students are: accountability, drive, motivation, curiosity, integrity,” Mrs. Goss said. “They’re really intentional when thinking about who they want to invite to campus and trying to make it a great experience for everyone involved, so being really mindful is a skill they’ve all definitely embodied.”
The Lunch and Lead program has already given their members the opportunity to take leadership roles, and it continues to successfully do so through their student-led guest speaker programs.