9th annual Light Foundation Leadership Conference
June 5, 2024

On May 16, the Light Foundation had the pleasure of overseeing its 9th annual Light Foundation Leadership Conference! Hosted for a seventh time at Bridgewater State University, thanks to its President and Light Foundation Board Member Fred Clark, this most recent edition of the conference turned out another success!

Students from seven local high schools hopped off the buses in the morning, and after ducking some drizzles and a pitstop for coffee and confections from Dunkin’– got right down to business. Former Light Foundation interns and current summer employees Caroline Tripp and Andrew Valkanas kicked things off with their introduction just before Matt Light took the stage to introduce our keynote speaker, Kaleb Joseph. He also revealed the theme of the day: Make It Matter.

Joseph’s captivating keynote address on mental health and mental health awareness in the face of great expectations laid down the foundation for how the students can make it matter through the power of vulnerability. With bits of crowd-work and his personal story about struggling with anxiety, depression and addiction, Joseph iterated the importance of the students taking off the masks they put on and being transparent with themselves and their peers about mental health.

Following the emotive discussion, the students were given the chance to mingle with their colleagues from the other high schools and engage in a three-part group activity, “Escape the Island,” thought up by our high school externs, Jaden Ma, and Tara Geoghan. All seventeen groups were tasked with making a map of a deserted island, building a rain catcher, and got to stretch their legs trying to reach the safety of a rescue ship through a bit of a brain teaser called “Traffic Stop.”  Each successive stage of the activity promoted teamwork, communication, perseverance, and problem solving.

Next, the groups were divided into three breakout sessions, and with the clatter of a cowbell, they rotated through each breakout room over the following 120 minutes. In the main ballroom, Light followed up Joseph’s discussion with his own notes on making it matter: driving home the need for resilience and grit in the students’ journey to becoming better leaders.

Meanwhile, another group was hearing from former TV news anchor and current PR pro Liam Martin and the aforementioned Caroline Tripp about how to make their decisions matter. With a wide range of students from different backgrounds and at different stages of their high school careers, the scope of decisions to be made for their futures were immensely variable, but the goal of the discussion applied to all of them: to figure out how to make ensure those next steps matter to them.

In our third breakout, Light Foundation Board Members Francesca Federico and Kylie Ruschioni joined Twelve Points Wealth’s Maya Keenan-Gallagher and stressed the importance of financial literacy and making money decisions matter to the students. They described how the groups could make financial decisions now that could help them down the line. They also described why these choices can and likely should matter to these students – that making their finances matter today could provide them with the freedom to make everything matter tomorrow.

Having already been given plenty of food for thought, the students were able to get themselves some actual food with a college-style lunch down a few flights at the Bear’s Den Dining Hall.

Afterwards, the students headed back up to the main ballroom for the closing session. Following a brief introduction, keynote speaker and Bridgewater State University Women’s Soccer Head Coach Yasmina Carvalho helped close out the conference with a talk about her “three P’s” mantra. Keying on the aspects of purpose, perseverance, and passion within the day’s theme, Carvalho outlined her approach to leadership and coaching; providing everyone with the tools to tailor those three key ideas around their own goals and leadership journeys.

The students began to file out back onto their buses following these closing remarks, but not before a select few students were recognized for demonstrating exceptional leadership throughout the day and a stop for photos at our selfie station.

The 9th annual Light Foundation Leadership Conference officially closed out, with the guests able to show their leadership abilities, and take away all kinds of lessons for the future on how to Make It Matter.

A big thank you to our participating schools: East Bridgewater, Canton, Taunton, Brockton, New Bedford, and Scituate and Randolph, Massachusetts. We also owe a big debt of gratitude to our sponsors, Presenting Sponsor The Haynes Group, Gold Sponsors Granite Telecommunications, Backstage Photo Booth, and Dunkin’ Donuts, and Transportation Sponsors Rockland Trust Bank and Sharon Credit Union.

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