Being a leader is a lot more than simply holding a leadership title. In fact, all high school students can be leaders, whether or not they have an official leadership position. Presentation High School offers leadership training and opportunities to any student who has an interest. All students need to do is sign up. Learn about how the Women’s Leadership Institute and its programs help young women thrive. 

Leadership Academy 

Most schools offer leadership training for team captains, club leaders and others who choose leadership roles on campus. Through the Leadership Academy at Presentation, every student can learn leadership skills. Faculty-led workshops encourage students to become leaders on campus and beyond. 

Some of the essential courses in the program include Intro to Leadership, which teaches about leadership styles, Ethics and Integrity, which asks the question “What does it mean to be an ethical leader?” and Vision, Mission and Goal Setting, a course about setting and meeting goals. All students are encouraged to take advantage of the transformational opportunities, whether they sign up for one workshop or take every available workshop and go on to do a Capstone Project. 

Capstone Projects

Students who take ten or more Leadership Academy courses have the opportunity to design and implement a Capstone Project. The goal of these projects is to allow students to put their leadership skills to the test while making a positive impact on the campus community. This shines a light on students’ leadership and creativity while allowing them to use their skills in the real world.

"They’re all so different and all so creative,” said Suzanne Colvin, Presentation’s Leadership Director. “We had one where the students researched trash and recycling issues on campus and presented it to the administration. It showed a lot of confidence on their part, giving their proposed solutions. That was really impressive."

A few other Capstone projects really stand out to Colvin. One project, “How to Adult,” taught students about networking, eating healthy, budgeting and other “adulting” skills through a series of faculty-led workshops that were organized by the students. Another project, Positivity Week, led students through a week of fun activities focused on body image, mental health and interactions with the community. Between sunrise yoga sessions and posting notes on the wall of positivity and bringing in toy donations for a local organization, students had a week of uplifting experiences that wrapped up with a day of fun that included a bounce house. 

Along with on-campus Capstone Projects, students have the opportunity to plan, pitch and implement Platinum Projects, which focus more on the broader community. These tend to be service oriented and oftentimes involve fundraising and donation collection events for local charities. Whichever type of project students choose, they gain valuable experience which puts their leadership skills and creativity to the test. Platinum Projects are part of our Community Involvement program, which works hand-in-hand with the Leadership Academy.

Programs Offered

While every Leadership Academy workshop teaches young women valuable life skills, a couple truly stand out. The most popular one is an advocacy workshop. Our Community Involvement Program sends students to a teach-in in Washington, D.C. After attending this event, they return home and teach the lessons they learned to fellow students. Community Involvement Directors help them plan the workshop, which is especially popular for club leaders.

Presentation has also added a series of DEI workshops to the Leadership Academy, which has evolved into its own institute, Ethnic Studies Academy, that offers Leadership Academy credits. Those enrolled in the Leadership Academy can take any of the 5 workshops to learn how to be a more compassionate and inclusive leader. This is just one of the ways the school and its students show a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Student Response

Nearly 150 students sign up to be part of the Leadership Academy each year. After attending Leadership Academy workshops, students report more confidence in several leadership skill areas, such as project management, public speaking and making ethical decisions. Students in Leadership Academy were much more likely to hold a Leadership Position (on or off campus) than students that are not in Leadership Academy. In addition to showing students what it means to be a leader, the program allows students to apply those skills in the real world. 

“It's a great way for you to get an introduction into what it means to be a leader; you are taught the skills you need to be a good leader and given the chance to think critically about how they can be applied into different scenarios,” said Danica Kubota ’23. 

The variety of courses offered in the Leadership Academy program allows students to learn the basics of leadership and broaden their horizons. With courses on everything from communication and diversity to sports and advocacy, young women have the opportunity to explore leadership on many levels. Sometimes, the fundamental courses are the best ones.

“My favorite Leadership Academy Workshop I attended was Team Building 1. During the workshop, we played games that simulated the obstacles a person can face while working on a team. It was super fun, and it taught me how good team leaders must be organized, effective, and open-minded!” said Sabrina Simpkins ’24. 

Women’s Leadership Institute

Student leadership efforts at Presentation branch beyond the Leadership Academy into the ASB, student council, and club leadership. Together, these programs fall under the Women’s Leadership Institute, which is led by Colvin. 

The ASB includes five students who serve as the school’s co-presidents and lead the student council. Student council is also made up of homeroom reps and class officers from each grade level. Members of student council coordinate events and service projects and serve on the following committees: campus life, spirit, DEI and events.

Club leaders also have the opportunity to grow within the Women’s Leadership Institute. Each club is run by student leaders who meet with Colvin at the beginning of each school year. She provides a template for running the club, then follows up as needed throughout the year to support each club and its officers. 

How it All Started

Colvin started her education career at Presentation 22 years ago. In 2008, she helped found the Leadership Academy. She and her colleagues noticed that student leaders lacked specific leadership skills. To solve this problem, they built leadership workshops to intentionally teach these skills, planting the seeds of the Leadership Academy. While this program is all about the students, it also has a profound impact on Colvin, who is inspired by the students she has met over the years. 

“They’re excited about school and excited about making Pres the best place it can be. It’s a pretty sweet job,” Colvin said. 

The Women’s Leadership Institute continues to grow, empowering young women to become successful leaders on campus and beyond. These female-led programs empower young women to step up in their own unique way. Ready to learn why the leadership programs at Presentation, a Catholic, college-prep high school in San Jose, might be the best fit for your student? Call us at (408) 264-1664 or contact us online.


  • Leadership