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    Message of diversity, inspiration rings bell

    A Renaissance Leadership conference imbues students with new skills and ideas.

    By LORRI HELFAND, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 22, 2003

    Some of the students didn't know what to make of the perfectly coifed 49-year-old man wearing a nubby brown houndstooth jacket.

    Some chatted among themselves. Others rested their chins on their hands as they sat in the gymnasium bleachers at Dunedin High and listened to him speak.

    "Is this the motivational speaking part?" speaker Mark Scharenbroich asked, pretending to be one of them.

    "Where you tell us about some guy with no arms and no legs that climbed Mount Everest with just his teeth and a good attitude?" Scharenbroich asked.

    The kids roared with laughter.

    By the end of the hour Tuesday, Scharenbroich won over most of the 900 students with his message of living life to the fullest and accepting all members of the high school community.

    Jamesan Allyn, 17, a senior from Osceola High, was touched by the message of diversity.

    "I wish we had someone like you at my school," he told Scharenbroich. "We have a lot of need for what you said. I just wanted to say thank you."

    Allyn was one of 100 students from throughout the county invited to the Renaissance Leadership conference at Dunedin High School to brainstorm ideas and boost their leadership skills.

    Dunedin High's Renaissance Leadership program recognizes students of all levels for academic success with prizes and perks. Dunedin High is the only school in the county that has a Renaissance program.

    "The idea is for everyone to come together and learn as a group," said Valerie Edenfield, an 18-year-old Dunedin High senior. "It brings average kids with honors kids and recognizes them all at once."

    The Renaissance program was brought to Dunedin High by Jostens, a company that supplies yearbooks, class rings, graduation items and assorted school and athletic products.

    Jostens facilitates the program, which awards students with gifts, gift certificates, special parties and other rewards for maintaining good grades or improving in school.

    Dunedin High is the only school in the county that has a Renaissance program.

    The school has a Renaissance committee, a group of student leaders in charge of the program.

    After Scharenbroich's speech, Renaissance committee members and other student leaders split into breakout sessions, headed by Jostens representatives, to learn about goal setting, dealing with change, planning activities and projects and building campus connections to make the school a better place.

    Torian Cherry, 17, a senior leader from Seminole High, said the conference taught him how to incorporate school traditions and plan better activities. "I did get a lot of stuff from it. I'm really, really glad I came," he said.

    -- Lorri Helfand can be reached at 445-4155 or at .

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