Last January, Gulliver Prep senior Shannon Soler was in Washington DC attending the National Young Leadership Conference. Because of the conference she was able to be present at President Obama’s second inauguration. The students attending the NYL conference were stationed on the lawn halfway between the Washington Monument and the stage.
“It was an experience I know I’ll never forget,” she says. “I’d never really been interested in politics or what he had to say, but because I was going, I actually became interested.”
Soler says she enjoyed attending the conference and found portions of it useful, even now. The conference focused on leadership in general as well as networking and communications.
“Then they got more specific about leadership in government. They did a mock congressional session,” she says. “We would vote on bills that we created as a group.”
Since returning home, Soler has been working on implementing her networking and leadership skills. Over the past three summers, she has been developing her leadership skills by working at the Belen Summer Camp as a counselor for six and seven year olds. “I attended the camp when I was younger,” she says.
“I always wanted to be a part of that community.”
When she became old enough, she volunteered. Along the way she has discovered that she enjoys working with the children.
“During the seven weeks, I saw that I was so close to them that we became a big part of their lives, to the point that some of the parents got our phone numbers and we talk to them regularly,” Soler says. “I was in charge of 25-30 boys. I had to find different techniques and ways to solve problems, and I’ve applied that to different parts of my life.”
Soler is president of the Gulliver Dance cub and the senior captain of the dance team, the Sundancers. Every February, Gulliver dancers are involved in an AIDS benefit with several other schools.
“We invite other schools to come and participate,” she says.
Both the dance team and the dance club perform.
During the year, the Sundancers attend three competitions — the American Dance Alliance, the Florida Dance Team Directors Association and the Contest of Champions in Orlando. She expects the team do well during competition season this year, at least as well as last year, if not better.
“We were overall state champion at FDTDA,” she says.
As captain, Soler makes sure team members know their responsibilities and what’s going on each week. She also helps the coach with any paperwork that needs to be done. She leads warm-ups and works with the other dancers to clean up the routines to make them better.
“I’ve been dancing since I was two,” she says.
Soler belongs to a dance studio where she takes jazz and contemporary. She works with a private teacher on ballet. In college, she hopes to continue dancing, hopefully on a dance team. She is not planning on majoring in dance; instead she hopes to major in chemistry and move on to pharmaceutical sciences.
“I’m trying to stay in state,” she says. “I’ve heard from FIU, UCF, USF and FSU, and I’ve gotten into all of them.” She is waiting for word from the University of Miami and the University of Florida.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld