Dedication to leading, learning and serving earned a local student a coveted spot in an exclusive leadership program.
Northside High School junior Brooke Gruber was selected as one of 14 students to attend the Frances Hesselbein Student Leadership Program at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York Oct. 24-28.
“The call came while I was eating a turkey dinner at Cracker Barrel,” Brooke said. “I remember wanting to scream with excitement, but I waited until I got outside the restaurant.”
Gruber’s work and dedication with the Military Child Education’s Student 2 Student Monarch Ambassador program within her high school and her community earned her the spot in FHSLP.
When selecting from the hundreds of students within S2S programs across the nation, FHSLP looks for those who would share their experience and knowledge gained to help grow and sustain their school’s S2S programs.
“I felt honored to be given the opportunity to represent my school and spend time with other student leaders from across the nation who share common goals and missions for their schools,” Brooke said.
S2S works with military students transitioning into and out of schools to create positive connections throughout those processes, Brooke said. It also allows students to make important impacts within their schools and communities through the welcoming environment.
As a member of the Air Force JROTC program, spending time at West Point drove home the vision Brooke has for her future.
The daughter of the late Maj. Brooks Gruber, a Marine Osprey pioneer pilot who was killed during training on April 8, 2000. After a crash ruling that initially placed blame for the crash on pilot error, N.C. Congressman Walter Jones assisted Gruber’s mother, Connie Gruber, as well as the other familes, in the years-long fight to correct the ruling and restore the reputations of the Marine pilots.
Brooke says she is strongly pulled to continue her family’s honor of serving in the military.
“My goals include becoming a stronger leader, attending a military academy or ROTC university, and serving,” she said. “Spending a week at West Point helped me to better connect with the cadets there, learn more about leadership, and what their daily lives entail at the academy.”
While at FHSLP, Brooke and the other students from around the country were given valuable leadership skills that they could apply in their schools and S2S programs, as well as their own lives, she said.
The opportunity to learn from her peers about how leadership was benefical within their schools and improving their lives was an important aspect of FHSLP, Brooke said.
Speaking with the program’s namesake, Dr. Frances Hesselbein, and having her sign a copy of her book “More Hesselbein on Leadership” was a highlight of the week for Gruber.
“(Hesselbein) shared wise words I will always remember, including ‘leadership is not a destination but a journey;’ ‘as one door closes, another opens;’ ‘we choose our fellow travelers very wisely;’ ‘the quality and character of the leader determines what you do and how well you do it;’ ‘you have to live a life of integrity,’” Brooke said. “I admire and agree with Dr. Hesselbein. I am blessed to have grown up with great role models of integrity including the life examples of my mother, my father, and our congressman, Walter Jones. Without a doubt, my life is well-grounded in both faith and integrity.”
An active student within NHS, Brooke is a member of honor societies, key club, the varsity girls tennis team and dance team.
She will also perform the lead role as “Mary Poppins” in the spring musical at NHS. Gruber enjoys singing with the Praise Team at First Baptist Church and serving the community as a member of the Jacksonville Youth Council, as an Onslow Memorial Hospital VolunTeen and as a certified Red Cross volunteer at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune.
And in each of the activities and in her actions, Brooke said she strives to implement the most important lesson she brought back from FHSLP: “You don’t always have to be a leader to make a positive impact on others. Just the slightest good impression can make a difference in someone else’s life that they will never forget.
“Leadership is a matter of ‘who to be’ rather than ‘what to ‘do.’”