Tuesday, July 8, 2014

LEAD 2014: Congrats to Our Future Leaders

Fifth Annual LEAD Experience Offers Skills for Success to Southern Maryland Teens


              A diverse group of 31 high school students from Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties celebrated completion of LEAD 2014 on June 25, each walking away with life-long leadership skills, new friends and unique memories.

 For the fifth year, Leadership Southern Maryland (LSM) and Maryland Leadership Workshops (MLW) partnered to provide a unique four-day, three-night residential learning experience intended to strengthen skills such as project planning, group dynamics and diversity appreciation. 
The tenth, eleventh and twelfth-graders from throughout the region were guided through group games and workshops designed to help them recognize and maximize their potential for becoming leaders within their schools and communities, while gaining or strengthening practical skills that will benefit them in future academic and career endeavors.
The MLW staff which worked directly with the LEAD delegates are young adults typically attending college or recent graduates and are frequently former leadership camp completers. LEAD 2014’s MLW Outreach Coordinator Andrew Williams, 25, said he enjoyed attending MLW as a high school senior and college freshman so much that he decided to get involved as a mentor.
“It’s just a great experience and I enjoy getting to be part of something that can really make a positive impact in a young person’s life,” Williams shared.
Like the teen delegates, the staffers were diverse and each brought their own unique life-experiences to share during both the comprehensive lessons and the more relaxed social activities. Throughout the experience, LEAD participants got to know their peers from other schools and other counties, delving into their differences as well as their commonalities. While the workshops are thought-provoking, there is equal time given for high-energy games of balloon stomp and campfire camaraderie.
Housed in dorms on the beautiful, waterfront campus of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the students got a little taste of college life and were treated to a guided tour of Historic St. Mary’s City with Executive Director and LSM alumna Dr. Regina Faden and Dr. Henry Miller. From the St. John’s Site Museum to boarding The Dove, delegates were surrounded by history while learning of the tried and true leadership principles utilized by Maryland’s founders in the 17th century and by those creating headlines today.
  LEAD delegates also engaged in community service, doing their part to help clean up the St. Mary’s River and the Chesapeake Bay, learning more about environmental stewardship and restoration efforts through a partnership with the St. Mary’s River Watershed Association (SMRWA). Donning lifejackets and gloves, they worked alongside SMRWA Executive Director and LSM alumnus Bob Lewis, staff and volunteers to load dozens of Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO) cages and boarded a barge to deposit them at a designated spot within the oyster sanctuary.
           This year, LEAD participants planted roughly 500,000 oysters, captured and examined aquatic creatures with a seining net and got up close and personal with the water-filtering bi-valves.
             Tom Jarboe, LSM founding member and past president and St. Mary’s County Commissioner candidate, LSM alumnus and SMRWA board president Joe Anderson, Delegate John Bohanan and Boeing Global Corporate Citizenship community investor Oscar Ocasio greeted the LEAD delegates at the waterfront to support the positive local and environmental project.
             Before delegates received their certificates and headed into the future with a bevy of new-found leadership tools, they presented synthesis projects as small groups, exercising the teamwork, S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting and public speaking skills they’d honed during the program.  Each year, teens use this platform to express topics they deem interesting and important to them, along with potential solutions or implementation plans while a panel of LSM board members and alumni ask questions and assess their projects.
2014 delegates offered projects focused on eliminating the 4-year math or English requirements if it proved unnecessary for a student’s career path choice; another proposed a unique Chesapeake Bay restoration project; and a third group concentrated on greater education about and a reduction in the use of prescription and opiate drugs.
             Whether delegates decided to follow in the footsteps of an older sibling that previously benefitted from attending, returned for a second year or signed up at the urging of a relative or teacher, each participant said they gained something useful at this unique camp experience and would recommend LEAD to their friends.
          Talia Thomas, an 11th-grader at Patuxent High School said, “I really gained a lot from this, like great new friends, how to work together well and [the understanding] that there are people who really care.”
            Many teens said the project planning and goal-setting skills were valuable and applicable takeaways they could use to reach greater success in many aspects of their lives. Others said they gained confidence in areas like public speaking and maintaining motivation.
Chopticon junior Shannon Burke shared, “I really loved the whole program… I learned to talk in front of others and I made a ton of great friends.”
             The Inaugural LSM/LEAD 5K/10K Run & Walk will be held on Sept. 14 at 8 a.m. Pre-registration of $25 for walkers and $30 for runners directly benefits the LSM and LEAD programs. Visit active.com and enter ‘LEAD – 5K/10K Walk/Run’ to participate.
           For more information, please contact us at 240-725-5469 or via e-mail at info@leadershipsomd.org.

Click HERE to visit the LEAD Facebook page to see more photos and HERE to check out the following photo montage created and shared by MLW Community Outreach Coordinator Andrew Williams.