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Youth leadership has numerous definitions

By Emily Wilson Oh come on! I’m a junior this year. I’ve got to get good grades so I can get into a good college and not end up stuck in high school for the rest of my life. The last thing I need is another extracurricular activity. My arguments seemed to fly off into the distance as Dorothy Carter’s grin widened upon her face. ’Ah ha!’, she exclaimed. ‘You want to get into a good college, well I’ve got a secret for you. The words Youth Leadership Lamar on an application will have colleges calling you up left and right. Not to mention you’ll actually learn how to be a better leader, too.’ Her enthusiasm and persuasive argument convinced me to sign my name to the list of future leaders and friends. On Monday, Sept. 29, about 30 minutes after school ended, our first Youth Leadership Lamar session began. My skepticism soon began to wane as I entered the chamber of commerce and took a seat at a long conference table covered with various name cards and materials. In front of me, I identified a journal, lesson book and folder, each labeled for my personal use. After the remaining students filed into the room and found their seats, Octavia Jackson, Youth Leadership Lamar steering committee member, stood up to speak. Her excitement and interest shone as she reviewed some quick formalities and introduced our featured speaker for the afternoon. Dr. Lori Bledsoe, a youth educator with the University of Georgia, smiled radiantly as she posed the question, ‘What is leadership?’ The general silent response was soon put to rest as Dr. Bledsoe persisted and encouraged us to not be afraid to give input. As more and more answers were declared, we discovered leadership does not have a single definition. Instead, it is a combination of different styles and characteristics all taken on by people for the purpose of motivating others. Dr. Bledsoe went on to describe the different situations in which leaders exist and the different types of leaders one can be. In discovering my own style of leadership, I learned I can relate to my friends, role-models and even someone like Benjamin Franklin. Our other main objective of the day was to recognize some of the qualities of a good leader. By drawing leader portraits with hyperbolic characteristics, such as a literal giant red heart to symbolize compassion, we created some interesting pictures that actually made sense (to us at least). Before I knew it, adults were offering us snacks and our first session was coming to a close. I thought, ‘It can’t be 5 p.m. already.’ Well, that was faster than I thought. Maybe this won’t be so bad. My thoughts about Youth Leadership Lamar had taken a turn for the better as I reached for the door handle and waved goodbye. Our next meeting was slightly different than the first. On Saturday, Oct. 4, we gathered in a grassy, shaded area at Gordon College for a session teaching us how to develop team building skills. The session was led by Kathy Selph, a member of the Youth Leadership Lamar steering committee. The youth leaders and adults actively participated in a number of games that challenged our minds, methods of communication and, of course, cooperation. An extreme version of Simon Says kept us listening intently. Another team building exercise found us attempting to travel from Earth to Mars (hula hoops) on spaceships (wooden blocks). This activity linked us together and challenged us to remember everyone on a team is equally important. I especially enjoyed watching Sgt. Maggie Moreland and Carter, two members of the Youth Leadership Lamar steering committee, do their best to actively participate in the games. It seemed as though we moved from one crazy activity to the next, creatively recapping what we’d learned. Gradually, I felt like I was getting to know everyone a little bit better, just from working with them towards common goals and laughing along the way. Again, time flew and suddenly we were being led to the Gordon cafeteria for free lunch, compliments of Youth Leadership Lamar. Sipping on a glass of Diet Coke, I contemplated the past events of the day and realized I had run out of negative things to say about Youth Leadership Lamar. Instead I simply smiled and said, ‘Not bad, not bad at all.’

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