The founder of Exeter Summer School’s Leadership Program, Charlie Hamm, came last Thursday to speak to the students of the program, as they undertake several projects to raise awareness of issues in today’s world and impact the Exeter community. 

One word kept coming up in descriptions of Hamm: “Amazing!”  

The purpose of the program, according to the Phillips Exeter Summer School catalogue, is to strengthen certain leadership qualities of its students, such as self-confidence, oral and written communication, ethics, decision making, and problem solving. In the words of Dr. Kent McConnell, leader of the program, “its fundamental purpose is to try to give students an opportunity of leadership that they were unaware of.” 

Several of the students who joined the program did so because of the benefits that the key aspects of leadership can offer in life. 

“Being able to lead, being able to speak, doing all that stuff is important,” said Patrick Lineham, 16. 

Patrick’s fellow student Max Cromback echoed his desire to be a leader as well as his stance about the importance of leadership in the life.   

“I’ve always wanted to be a leader when I was young,” Max said. “I think it’s very useful for later in life.”

Much of the leadership summer revolves around the program. Students are required to take both Leadership and Society and the Practical Leadership Seminar, while they are also taken on excursions to institutions such as Dartmouth, Harvard, Brown and the J.F.K library in Boston. Meanwhile, they also become a member of a “capstone” team, which works on a project that can engage both Exeter and the broader community. 

“The notion is that students will not only carry ideas of leadership into the PEA community, but into the broader community as a whole,” said McConnell when describing the purpose of the project.

Some of the “capstone” projects include Fit Week, a week in which different athletic activities are planned for the Exeter students to compete in, and the Unicef project, which aims to donate money to children in Africa so that they can afford drinkable water.

Many students in the Leadership Program felt that they had learned some important aspects of leadership, especially from Hamm. As Exeter’s leaders were working on their projects, Hamm spoke to them about some of the challenges he overcame in life, like dyslexia and several other learning disabilities. Hamm also spoke about his career, which involved advertising, marketing, and banking. Students found Hamm’s visit inspirational. 

“Everyone had different expectations about what he would be like, but eventually we got to meet him and he was just this amazing, bright man,” said Esteban Vizciano, 17. 

“He spoke with such ease, and the wise words came so fluently out of his mouth, so I think that was something that, you know, had an impact on each and every one of us,” he said. “I think that he was an amazing guy that really inspired me.”

Meanwhile, Max echoed Esteban’s fondness for Hamm’s talk, citing the fact that he was given some important advice about leadership.

“He basically told us that communication is the key to everything,” said Max. “He told us to always take a step back when you have a problem.” 

While the students in the leadership program are learning about important elements of leading, some have actually learned about the experience of being a follower, especially in teamwork and communicating within a group. 

“I think the most interesting thing I learned in leadership is how to be a follower,” said Patrick. “Sometimes it’s hard to step back and be a follower. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned in leadership is actually how not to lead.”