Monday, November 16, 2009

Developing Leaders Locally

Recently, there are international efforts which are increasing their focus on developing young leaders so that they are well equipped to combat the global challenges of our age including poverty, AIDS, and social injustice. This is evidenced by the recently held Sixth Annual Youth Assembly at the United Nations who encouraged adolescents with the theme of, Vision. Passion. Action. The Carlisle Family YMCA is leading innovative programming to develop young talent locally, housing their renewed efforts at the 78-year-old Camp Thompson.

The Leadership-In-Training Program is a 2-week residential opportunity for 15-16 year old campers. Justin Rose, Camp Director, says, “Developmental goals of the program include leadership components of; time management, organization, conflict resolution, initiative, public speaking, and listening. These valuable tools are beneficial in more than the camp community; they’re tools to be used for life.” Working in small groups, teens develop leadership skills, experience group work in activities like rock climbing; and participate in a service project during their 3-4 day back-packing or canoe trip. Participants must satisfactorily complete 80% of a leadership manual filled with tasks and challenges. Throughout the week, participants are immersed in leadership dialogue, role play, and practical application scenarios. The week culminates with participants delivering a public speech about their experience. Many participants progress into the Counselor-in-Training program, equipping them to work as Camp Counselors as they are eligible. For some, the week provides basic opportunities to identify strengths and weaknesses while facilitating relationship-building and socialization. For others, the experience is life-changing.

One parent describes this transformational experience this way, “Being a teenager is a pivotal time in a person's life when he or she is trying to figure out 'a place to stand' in this world. At fourteen, my daughter Emily was no different, so I suggested she try leadership camp offered through the Carlisle YMCA.

This experience proved to be one of the turning points in her life. She was taught how to plan, implement and evaluate service projects. She was given opportunities to
learn teambuilding skills and encouraged to make a difference in her
community. Following that summer, in ninth grade, she ran for president of
her class and won. In tenth grade, she started the interact service club and
continued being president of the club until she graduated. In addition to
becoming involved with international service projects, she was able to get other clubs in her school to all work together on various community initiatives. As a junior, she attended the Rotary Leadership Camp and continued to grow her skills.

As a result of all her experiences, she secured a Community Leadership scholarship at Point Park University, where she continues to be involved in leadership activities and community service. I thank the Carlisle Family YMCA and Leadership Camp for helping to inspire my daughter to become the caring and capable person she is today and hope that other teens can take advantage of this life enhancing opportunity."

The YMCA recognizes that global change begins as the most basic level – in our homes and in our communities. The Leadership In Training program embodies this concept, investing in area youth as the building blocks of social change.

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