ScholarCon connects nation's student leaders in Orlando
More than 1,500 campus student leaders from across the nation gathered in Orlando this weekend for ScholarCon, an event held by the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.
ScholarCon is an event for the nation's brightest to get together and celebrate their academic achievements, listen to famous guest speakers, build career networks, win scholarships and meet new people.
The four-day event started on Thursday with Scholar Coverage, which included pre-convention events and an opening party.
Friday and Saturday brought the students an opportunity to attend talks by speakers including Kal Penn from the Harold and Kumar franchise and the Fox TV show, House, as well as notable UCF alumna Lauren Berger of InternQueen and Svante Myrick, Ithaca, New York's, youngest mayor and its first mayor of color.
The speakers' topics ranged from motivational to inspirational, such as Jarvis Henderson's "You Are Built 2 Last So Go Do Something," where he talked about being broken by his divorce and how he took his pain and turned it into energy to motivate others.
Excited chatter and laughter filled the Hilton Orlando's ballrooms as students walked in and out of session after session.
ScholarCon organizers also made a point to talk about the international issue of campus sexual assault with the screening of the documentary, The Hunting Ground: Dare to Take a Stand on Friday and with a talk from Kyle Lierman, the White House leader for the It's On Us campaign on Saturday morning.
Verelyn Gibbs Watson, president of the NSCS, brought the film and message to ScholarCon because of the importance in educating the nation's future leaders on the still-present issue of sexual assault.
"ScholarCon is a conference for high achievers," Gibbs Watson said. "These are the people that are leaders on their campus and these are the students that are setting the example for others to follow."
During Penn's talk, he mentioned a story about a producer early on in his career who told Penn, "I don't hire women unless they are really hot because I don't want to get sued for my filthy mouth." Penn said he found himself disgusted by the producer and appalled that he would be so comfortable in admitting something like that.
When asked why he thought it was important to be turned off by that kind of behavior, Penn said, "I just thought it was abysmal to treat people that way. ... You don't treat people that way. I don't know, my mom raised me right, what do you want me to say?"
As the audience laughed and cheered, Penn said that as a man, it is important to understand their role in this social conversation because they have the power to change the environment in which we live.
Gibbs Watson said the message of the It's On Us campaign is one of ownership and personal responsibility.
"It's on everybody. So it doesn't matter if you're a woman, if you're a male, if you are heterosexual or if you're LGBT," said Gibbs Watson. "It's everyone's responsibility and I think it really resonated with the audience."
UCF alumna Lauren Berger of InternQueen said she was proud to be a Knight once she heard that UCF had its own It's On Us campaign.
"I am extremely proud to be a golden Knight myself and to know that UCF is doing so much to raise awareness for sexual assault," Berger said. "I think it's really impressive when students are taking opportunities to be loud and proud about anything they believe in."
Berger was in charge of the Internship Boot Camp session on Saturday where she talked to students about what it takes to land the perfect internship and how they can turn it into a job offer.
ScholarCon also held boot camps for public speaking, careers and entrepreneurship.
The convention ended on Sunday with a day of service that allowed students to give back through a service project. This year, students created cards to accompany the donations of headbands from entrepreneur Jessica Ekstrom's Headbands of Hope.
For every headband that is purchased through Ekstrom's website, one is donated to a girl with cancer, along with a $1 donation to fund cancer research.
Ekstrom was a main-stage speaker at ScholarCon. Her talk, Inspire, Not Require, encouraged students to redefine philanthropy from a requirement to a lifestyle.
Amelia Truong is a Digital Producer at the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @Ameliatruong or email her at AmeliaT@CentralFloridaFuture.com.