The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 22, 2006

Features

Carlisle students develop leadership skills

Last year fifth-grade teachers at the Carlisle Public School nominated ten students with demonstrated leadership qualities to attend the Junior National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference, which holds many sessions each year, helps students develop their leadership skills by examining leaders of the past with supporting visits to historic and politically significant places. Now sixth graders, Matt Japko and Roxane Sayde attended a program in mid-October and share their experiences below. Alison Yousefi, also a sixth grader, went to the conference last week.

One day I got a letter from the Junior National Young Leaders Conference asking me if I would like to go to Washington, D.C. and learn about becoming a better leader. I was pleased that they chose me, but I didn't know if I would meet a lot of kids with my same interests. Would the kids be mostly brainy as opposed to athletic like me; would I fit in with everyone; would they be loads of fun to hang out with? Sometimes I told myself I didn't want to go. Somehow, through a lot of decisions, I ended up with a plane ticket in my hand to Washington D.C.

We were taken to the 4H hotel where we would be spending most of that week. The first night I met my crazy roommates. Carl, a kid from Florida, was obsessed with video games and took an hour in the bathroom. Literally! Gary was from California, and he tried to act really cool. My least favorite kid of all was Randy from Idaho who loves the military. He tried to teach me karate.

Despite my roommate experience, I made loads of friends in my leadership focus group. We studied how to become better leaders. We also visited many sites in Washington and the surrounding areas. My favorites were the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

Our main focus at the Jr. NYLC was becoming better leaders, learning about past leaders, and meeting current political leaders and staff members like Kelzie Beebe and Tim Schlack. In our small focus group we talked about how and what we can do to become better leaders. Our group was assigned to concentrate mostly on "respect" (one of the six leadership principles including communication, teamwork, character, problem solving and goal setting). We met many times a day to continue our conversation about how to become better leaders. We combined with another group to create a "historical snapshot group" (HSG) where we discussed the decisions, communications, and other actions of past leaders. Each HSG broke into three small groups for our final project of the week. Each final project group was given a historical leader and developed a presentation to get that leader elected into the "League of Leaders."

My overall assessment now is that I made the right decision in going. Lots of people around me including my teachers, friends, and family, sense a difference that I am proud of, which I know is a result of my week of learning in D.C. I made many friends with different backgrounds from those I meet in Carlisle, and it was also a great chance for me to see the sights of D.C. For any student who is lucky enough to receive an invitation to the JR NYLC, I suggest you take advantage of your opportunity.

The bus to the hostel we were to stay in rolled on, as I chatted with my new-found friend, Martha, from New York. Would we be in the same room together? If not, what would my roommates be like? Would the food be better or worse than at home? What would the program be like? Would it be hard, would it be fun? All these questions rolled around in my brain, causing my voice to be somewhat distracted when I described what Carlisle is like to Martha. I told her all about my family, and my friends, and my dog, and just everything in general. I felt a dull pang rise in the back of my throat. This would be a long week.

I need never have worried about any of the hardships I predicted I would encounter. I wasn't in the same room as Martha, but my roommates were great. Alexis, Deepti, and Jazz, each of them special in their own way. The food was delicious, and the program was unbelievable. We studied different aspects of leadership in small groups, and then went to visit historical sites. I especially liked the Lincoln Memorial.

At the National Portrait Gallery, I was impressed with the paintings and made observations that the artists wanted to show about the leaders. I thought that General John J. Pershing looked very stern and brave. Henry Cabot Lodge seemed to be a very proud man who demanded respect. In using cool colors with warm highlights, I think artist Alfred Leslie wanted to tell us that Ronald Reagan was a calm, peaceful, serious, but relaxed person.

When I evaluated my skills as a team leader, I decided to take the role of Navigator, the one who points out direction and makes decisions. The members in my group agreed with that. Together we also found out that I end up guiding, supporting, helping, and doing most of the work! As a leader, I want to change the world in a positive way someday. I need to find ways to get others on my team reaching for the same goals and sharing the job. In understanding my strengths and weaknesses, I feel I can be a better leader to others.

Now I'm back home and I wish I could go every year. The trip was not only educational, but fun, and I was genuinely interested in what the adults had to say about leadership. I learned more about myself in a week than I did all year!


2006 The Carlisle Mosquito