“Empowering… inspiring… encouraging… inclusive.” These are the words senior Raj Patel used to describe Lunch and Lead, a program that brings in leaders in various fields— from lawyers to doctors to musicians to military personnel—to share their experiences and perspectives.
Even though math teacher and Director of Leadership Sandi Goss is the faculty advisor, Lunch and Lead is primarily student run. This gives students not only the opportunity to meet leaders, but also to build leadership skills on their own as they reach out to various leaders in their field and organize each of the events. This takes responsibility and friendliness.
Lunch and Lead events take place every couple of months. This year, Kingswood Oxford has seen four leaders come to campus and talk to students about the work they do. Lunch and Lead has many different styles as each speaker brings in a new crowd. Usually they are done through a panel, and according to Ms. Goss, groups who attend the event could range from 12 to 70 people. No two events are the same, and anyone can attend.
So far this year, the students were lucky to hear from a series of speakers along with one legal panel. Their first speaker this year was Lieutenant Colonel Derek Green. Colonel Green was a very important leader in the Marines and was able to share his experience and advice with our community.
Another speaker was alumnus Matt Ritter, the Speaker of the House in Connecticut. He is the leader of the first district.
The final speaker was Rabbi Phillip Lazowski, a survivor of the Holocaust. As a Jewish man, he endured severe conditions and lost his entire family in Nazi-occupied Poland. While this was happening, he still saved the lives of others.
Finally, Kingswood Oxford was able to hear from a legal panel including Carla Zahner, Dave Viddy, and Emily Poulin. Senior Arav Kumar loved that they were all from different types of law fields. Arav commented on the variety of guests that have come to speak at Lunch and Lead, from those working in legal firms, judges, or government agents. However, there’s one thing they all have in common: each leader has an important role in the legal world.
Although all of the leaders are important, some leaders inspire certain kids in different ways. For Arav, Rabbi Lazowski stuck with him. “It was definitely one of the few speeches where everyone in the school was completely silent, which is hard with the middle school,” Arav said. “He was the most impactful.” Arav was inspired by Rabbi Lazowski who demonstrated what a true leader should look like: one who demonstrates passion, perseverance, and persistence.
Additionally, by listening to the visitors, students can imagine what type of profession they might want to pursue. An example of this would be Matt Ritter, a politician. Ritter attended KO and graduated in the year 2000. Raj believes that Ritter was able to deeply inspire KO students. “Maybe he inspired you to say, ‘Yeah, maybe that is something I’m interested in, maybe I want to look into that a little bit more,’” Raj said. “Or it can bring you the other way and you may actually say ‘No, maybe that’s not my thing. Maybe I want to look at something else and I think that’s the power of Lunch and Lead.’” By listening to Matt Ritter, who during his KO years sat in the same seats as our students do today, students have the opportunity to see if they would ever want to be involved in politics. Every student that attended was able to ask themselves the same question.
Raj believes that Lunch and Lead has had a great impact on him as a person. “It can help you in your everyday problem-solving abilities and your leadership,” Raj said. “So maybe you are a strong leader or you’re not ready to step up into that role yet. One of these leaders can give you some ideas as to how to approach it, and also why you should be a leader.” Raj thinks that without Lunch and Lead, he would not be the leader that he is today. Along with that, he also believes that Lunch and Lead has helped him as a student in being prepared for upcoming events. Lunch and Lead can be beneficial to students in every aspect of their lives.
Arav was able to add that he has learned the lesson of perspective from Lunch and Lead.
“The biggest thing overall is perspective, keeping perspective like Rabbi Lazowski,” Arav said. Rabbi Lazowski has had to learn perspective early on, and keep it in mind his whole life, due to the things he’s had to face.
Lunch and Lead gives students an opportunity to hear from different local leaders and prepare for their futures.. Lunch and Lead will always be in the back of these students’ minds, as they grow beyond Kingswood Oxford.