By Sung Choe

The Riverwood Foundation held its inaugural Leadership Luncheon March 16, an event designed to provide guidance for students to become leaders and role models for a future generation, while also honoring key Sandy Springs residents for their work in the community.

The luncheon was established to profile the commitment of Riverwood High School to strengthen understanding of international affairs and relations, and at the same time highlight what the community can do to reinforce the school’s ongoing efforts to develop tomorrow’s leaders.

Sponsored by Harry Norman Realtors, the luncheon featured keynote speaker Dr. Louis Sullivan, former Secretary of Health and Human Services and President Emeritus of the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Beyond honoring those in attendance and extolling the work Riverwood is doing, the primary goal of the luncheon was to establish a dialogue with young people to help them become leaders who can shape the future on a global scale.

“Our goal is to train young people to be leaders in our ever demanding global society,” said Riverwood High Principal Eddie Echols. “They will be protecting our country, they will be writing and defending our laws, and they will be developing and discovering new technological breakthroughs. They will have an unbelievable impact on our international society.”

Echols praised the diverse environment Riverwood employs, saying he believes it will help students better understand different cultures, values and languages as they grow to develop relationships with the international community.

“I’m amazed daily to see students coming in from 40 countries, representing over 20 languages, interact with one another in a real-world experience,” said Echols. “An environment that embraces diversity and understanding that other people, though they may be different, will always be welcome.”

A student’s perspective also was heard during the luncheon, as senior Jonathan Arogeti took the podium and talked about his hopes for more community participation with Riverwood as it continues to shape tomorrow’s leaders.

“I look forward to greater community involvement and investment with the school,” Arogeti said, “so that we, together, can better prepare future students for instant connectivity with a global society.”

Arogeti discussed the benefits of the Internet and its ability to connect a user with someone several hundred miles away almost instantaneously. Arogeti said he believes such instant connectivity will “give us the opportunity for a global education.” But he also warned of the dangers of instant connectivity, detailing the scenario of a worker unwittingly sending a personal e-mail to all of his co-workers and employers.

Among the several business, community and educational leaders who were in attendance, several were honored for their achievement within the community, including Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten, and Honorary Consul of Guatemala, Maria Theresa Fraser.

After receiving her award, Fraser praised the work Riverwood High School has done in mentoring its students for leadership roles, and credited the school for teaching understanding and open-mindedness towards international culture.

“The focus on culture awareness, relations and global understanding is unbelievable,” Fraser said. “I’m honored to receive an award presented by Riverwood High School.”