Kiski Leadership Institute for Boys

    • Leadership Session 2

History of The Kiski Leadership Institute

The Kiski Leadership Institute for Boys is the culmination of three years of developing various leadership and character development programs for students.

What started as a series of low ropes course challenges in the fall of 2013 has grown into a four-year leadership program where we help students develop as individuals and prepare them for college and for life. The program is designed to instill valuable life skills such as collaboration, cooperation, and problem solving through innovative, out-of-the-classroom activities, and by exposing students to real world problems and global issues. The Kiski Leadership Institute is divided into four stages for each class of students.

Four Stages of Leadership

List of 4 frequently asked questions.

  • Service Leadership – Grade 9 • Freshmen

    Our first-year students will focus on community service and outreach as they begin their high school careers. As part of the Leadership Institute, freshmen can volunteer for Action for Animals, Roaring Run Watershed, American Heart Association, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and many more. The goal of this first stage is to teach students that a major component of leadership is service for the betterment of their community.

    Curriculum Highlights
    • Introductions, interactive games
    • Honesty and integrity
    • Community and service leadership
    • Self-Awareness, personal identity

  • Core and Resilience Leadership – Grade 10 • Sophomores

    During their second year of the Leadership Institute, students will focus on teamwork, collaboration, and problem solving as they explore the outdoors. Sophomore students will physically and mentally surrender their comfort zones while developing valuable life skills as they go white-water rafting at Ohiopyle and Kayak from Tunnelton to Saltsburg. The second stage also includes a class trip to Outdoor Odyssey and a hike in the Laurel Highlands.

    Curriculum Highlights
    • Outdoor Adventure
    • Trips to Outdoor Odyssey
    • Tunnelton Kayak Trip
    • Ohio Pyle Rafting
  • Comprehensive Leadership – Grade 11 • Juniors

    As our students enter their third year at Kiski, the focus is on Civil Rights and Social Justice. This stage includes a seminar for the film, Selma, a visit to the Gettysburg Battlefield, John Baker’s “The Civil War Soldier Experience,” and biennial trips to Antietam Battlefield and Bushy Run, as well as a Social Justice guest speaker. A thorough Civil Rights education will give the boys a deeper understanding of current racial tensions and the political climate.

    Curriculum Highlights
    • Civil Rights
    • Social Justice
    • Racial Literacy
    • The Battle of Gettysburg in contemporary perspective
  • Global Leadership – Grade 12 • Seniors

    During the last year of the Leadership Institute program, Seniors will learn about the impact of genocide. The genocide education will include a guest speaker series on the Holocaust, a capstone visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, and a film colloquium on Son of Saul or Hotel Rwanda.

    Curriculum Highlights
    • The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

How The Kiski Leadership Institute Brings the School Together

The goal of The Kiski Leadership Institute is to impart particular skills associated with different stages of a boy’s development, each marked by specific challenges. We believe that a more conscientious approach to life will prepare young men for whatever challenges lie ahead, and will nurture a strong sense of character. The entire Kiski community collectively owns the Leadership Institute. Faculty and student focus groups frequently discuss the enhancement of co-curricular leadership and character activities, and constantly look for ways to grow the program.

This program is an integral part of our educational model of reaching and teaching boys. Not only does it allow students to discover and develop individual leadership qualities, it also showcases each student’s ability to develop peer leaders. Building this confidence in each boy facilitates the success of our students as members of the global community, and ensures that they all have the capacity to be lifelong learners.

Four Community Weekends during the school year have been specifically designated as Leadership Days. Students participate in the low ropes course, colloquium-style case studies in advisory groups, off-campus trips, Cougar Cup events, community service projects, Maker, Builder, and Entrepreneurial Leadership activities and much more, all with an emphasis on cultivating a strong sense of character and leadership.
The do it yourself aspect. Whenever we were free to use whatever we wanted without any set design or tools it felt as if we were given a real challenge, and not just a task with instructions. It allowed for us to use our creativity and skills to solve a problem by ourselves without any teachers input. Doing things ourselves helps us solve problems independently, without the aid of an experienced mentor. ~ Kiski Student '15

The positive outcomes of the activities were clearly evident. Perseverance, initiative, and delegating happened in a natural way without much prompting from the adults. So in that sense, it showed me that I can lessen my need to control. I will give them more open ended problems to solve in groups. ~ Kiski Faculty Member

Opportunities for Leadership at The Kiski School

There are many opportunities for students to garner leadership positions at the School. Students can be Prefects, Headwaiters, K-Club Head Tour Guides, The Colonel Daub Society members, Cum Laude Society members, Big Brother Senior and Junior Leaders, Student Disciplinary Council, Captains on Athletic Teams, and Extra-Curricular and Club Leaders, Peer Tutor Leaders, and Yearbook Editor.

Ropes Course Challenges

List of 8 frequently asked questions.

  • Giant’s Finger

    The objective of this element is for the group, without using any props, to
    remove the hoop from the base of a vertical beam, lower it to the ground, and
    then place it back over the beam until it comes to rest at the base of the
    The hoop must maintain contact with a group member until completion of the
    activity (no throwing of the hoop).
  • Mohawk Walk

    The objective of this element is for the group to move through the “walk” via
    the tight cables without touching the ground. Anchor point ropes are used.

    No time limit is set for this element
  • Spider's Web

    A "spider's web" configuration is easily fabricated between two trees, poles,
    gymnasium standards, etc.

    The object is to move the entire group through the web openings so that
    each person goes through a distinct opening without touching the web. If a
    participant is successful, that opening conceptually closes for the remainder
    of the problem.

    If anyone touches the web during an attempt, the person being passed
    through must return and try again through that same opening.

    The web is made up of tied sections of 3/16 inch bungee cord as to simulate
    an ersatz (substitute) spider's web.
  • Bridges

    An activity in which the team starts out on one end of a space and must cross the space by making bridges across blocks without touching the ground, which is covered with a potent "acid". The team has multiple boards to build the bridges, but can lose a board if it touches the ground, and participants can lose use of an arm or vision if they touch the ground. The team needs to finish on or ahead of schedule. The problem solution doesn't reveal itself until after the team is typically well into an action mode, trying out different tactics, which may work at first, but ultimately need to change to be successful.
  • Wild Woozey

    Two diverging cables that originate from the same support and are
    connected on the far end into two separate supports, approximately 12 to 14
    feet apart. These taut cables are about 18 inches above the ground.

    The object is for two participants, each standing on a separate cable, to
    maintain physical contact with one another and move from the apex of the
    traverse to the far end without falling from the cables or losing contact.

    This is not a timed event.

    Indicate to the group that getting two connected people to the end of the
    event should be thought of as a group goal. Everyone should be thinking
    and working together toward this goal.
    Allow 20 to 25 minutes for a group of 9 – 12
  • Nitro Crossing

    The objective of this element is for the group to cross from one side of a
    specified area to the other by swinging on a rope suspended between two
    tress without touching the ground. The excitement of this activity may be
    heightened by requiring the participants to carry a bucket of water across
    with them
  • Tire Traverse

    The Tire Traverse is one of the most popular low ropes elements. Tires are suspended in the air by cables and the group's goal is to cross through the element without touching the ground. This is the first event in our team challenge circuit that tests physical endurance as well as group work. Encouragement is essential to the full completion of this task..
  • Whale Watch

    The Whale Watch is a popular ropes course activity that is constructed by creating a large platform with a see saw action, which imitates the rocking back and forth of a ship.
    The objective is to have the group perform various functions on the platform without allowing the edges of the platform to touch the ground.
1888 Brett Lane, Saltsburg, PA 15681   |   (877) 547-5448
Established in 1888, The Kiski School is one of the oldest, independent, all-boys, college preparatory boarding schools in Pennsylvania and the United States.  Home to 200 boys, Kiski offers an academically rigorous curriculum that includes Advanced and Honors courses, 12 varsity sports, and a community that allows boys to thrive through project-based learning and self-discovery. Kiski's beautiful, 350-acre campus is located in Saltsburg, Pennsylvania, 30 miles east of Pittsburgh, PA.

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