Westshore teen leaders learn valuable life skills

Westshore Young Leaders prepare needs assessments to identify problem areas in their schools.

Teens from five Westshore school districts participated in a Leadership Training exercise at the Westlake Recreation Center on Sept. 8. The Westshore Enforcement Bureau hosted this event for 7th-12th grade students, school administrators, counselors and resource officers. The Westshore Young Leaders Network is an alcohol and other drug prevention program funded by a grant that was awarded to the Westshore Enforcement Bureau (WEB) in 2010. Special Agent Jeff Capretto and myself have been working with school staff and students to provide alcohol- and drug-free activities and events for students for the past year.

McKeon Educational Group staff members from Bay Family Sevices Loren McKeon and Jamie Mahnic designed and facilitated the day-long experiential program. Middle and high school staff from Bay Village, Westlake, Lakewood, North Olmsted and Rocky River attended the training as liaisons between students and adult trainers to assist teens as they learned leadership and team building skills.

A variety of activities and games provided the teens an opportunity to make friends with Young Leaders in other communities while having fun. Trainers asked the question, "What one thing would you do to make your school better?" as a springboard to a lively discussion. The teens identified areas that they would like to  improve in each of their schools. 

The interactive training model teaches tools for problem solving, therefore empowering students to address problems in a constructive manner. Taking responsibility and ownership for improving problematic situations is a proactive approach to take in school and throughout life. 

After identifying specific areas of concern, the teens learned how to conduct a needs assessment to gauge how students in their school viewed the status quo. With the help of school liaisons, young leaders developed specific steps that would need to be taken for the surveys to be distributed and then analyzed. Obtaining permission from the their school's principal was the first step. Teens in each group volunteered to take responsibility for various aspects of the process.

After learning to design a 10-item student survey and analyze the data, plans for improvement can be explored. Trainers also taught teens another aspect of leadership: writing an effective proposal. Ample time was allotted for each school team to discuss their ideas and practice writing their proposal.

While the Sept. 8 exercise was a great start, WEB's Leadership Training is on ongoing process which continues during monthly meetings held in the Bay Village Police Department's Community Room. Counselors from Bay Family Services will continue to instruct team-building and leadership skill development as teens learn by actually hosting an event in their school.

School administrators, counselors, resource officers and WEB staff are eager to see the creative manner in which the Westshore Young Leaders strive to improve their schools and develop leadership qualities through actual practice that will serve them well not only in school now, but in future academics and life.

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Volume 3, Issue 19, Posted 3:02 PM, 09.20.2011