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Canon Leadership Program teaches valuable skills

March 31, 2010

Can one person change the world? The morning I spent at Gilliland Middle School may be proof that it is possible.

We arrived minutes before the lunch bell rang. A horde of tweens rushed toward the cafeteria as we made our way down the brightly colored hallways.

Robert Sittman, sophomore majoring in Religious Studies, mentors an impressionable eighth-grader named Tony as part of the Canon Leadership Program every week. Sittman found his mentee, Tony, amongst the crowd as the young man stepped out of math class.

“What did you do in math today?” Sittman asked him.

“I don’t know," Tony said. "Something with numbers." His posture slouched and voice muffled. Sittman convinced Tony to go back to the math class. Sittman wanted to chat with the teacher on the week’s events – the last thing Tony wanted to do.

During our brief meeting we found out Tony had been improving in many aspects, but lost his work book and missed some assignments.

After we left the math class, we took a quick detour to look at student works displayed throughout the hallways. We eventually made it to the cafeteria where Tony picked out his surprisingly healthy-looking salad and apple. We ate outside, just as the sun began to warm the concrete pavement. As we sat on playground benches, Sittman followed up on Tony’s week. Sittman also shared stories of his first semester at ASU.

Sittman’s inaugural semester wasn’t anything to write home about. According to Sittman, he spent most of his time reading text books and in class. He didn’t do much outside of studying, which might sound ideal for some. For Sittman, that wasn’t enough. He needed more. He got involved in extracurricular activities and, by doing so, realized college was an experience beyond tests and lectures.

“After a semester of self-imposed social exile, I wanted more out of life," Sittman said. "College isn’t just about a degree; it’s about getting an education.”

According to Sittman, an education is an experience and opportunity to grow into the person he wants to become.

Sittman is involved in numerous clubs and in his fraternity. He also is one of hundreds of ASU students enrolled in the Canon Leadership Program this year. The program is sponsored by Canon, the well-known international brand.

A key part of the Canon Leadership Program is giving students an opportunity to not only learn leadership skills, but apply them to the community. Students participate in seminars and workshops featuring nationally-renowned speakers and can enroll in credit courses on leadership. The mentorship program with Gilliland is one of dozens of projects Canon Leadership students work on throughout the semester.

“I couldn’t imagine not coming here to see Tony,” Sittman said. “He is like a part of my family now.”

I pose the question once more: Can one person really make a difference? After spending the day with Sittman, it’s a resounding yes. When I left the school and headed back to my office, my perspective changed. People like Sittman and Tony are examples that one person can change not only the world around them, but maybe more importantly, themselves.

For information on the Canon Leadership Program visit

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