NEW YORK — Former U.S. President John F. Kennedy believed leadership and learning work hand in hand. That principle was put to the test last month at Leadership University, a program held at Columbia University in New York, where six Tribal youth learned firsthand what being a leader entails.
Created to transform today’s most motivated students into tomorrow’s leaders, the program offers in-depth experiences on the challenges of leading.
From July 17-21, Tribal students Sara Ramos-Huggins, Daniel Nunez, Alexis Aguilar, Brianna Blais-Billie, Destiny Nunez and Neyom Osceola attended leadership workshops and seminars, met with corporate CEOs and nonprofit executives, and learned about trust during a team-building ropes course. They joined about 20 other participants who came from around the world.
“The students met interesting people,” education adviser Paola Moneymaker said. “They also saw the reality of what freshman year of college will be like. They spent four jam-packed days and had a really good time.”
The program, which addressed all aspects of leadership, aims to improve the life skills needed to be an effective leader and reach full potential.
The curriculum included an introduction to basic leadership principles and styles, a review of leadership characteristics of past and present leaders, and a lesson about the importance of community service. Students earned one college credit for attending.
“I was really happy to learn I am a leader,” said Ramos-Huggins, 17, of Hollywood.
During the program, the group divided in two for projects. One project was to find grant money for a fictional small town in need.Ramos-Huggins’ group proposed starting a foundation to help children and creating an event to raise money while bringing the community together at a carnival. Another component of the foundation was to teach the town’s students the positive impact serving on the student council could have on their lives.
“We really wanted that $1,000 grant,” Ramos-Huggins said.
The other group proposed a festival in a park to raise money so high school seniors could take a trip to Universal Studios. They suggested raising money by charging local businesses a fee to have a booth at the event.
“We wanted to inspire other kids to stay in school by having a senior trip to look forward to,” said Nunez, 15, of Brighton. “We never found out if we got the money; it was more about planning.”
Communication played a big part throughout the four-day program. Although it was a cold and rainy day during the ropes course event, the students encouraged one another to persevere.
During one of the team-building exercises, the students figured out how to fit all 12 members of the group onto one small platform without falling off. The task required communication and cooperation and demonstrated the importance of leadership skills.
“It was fun,” Ramos-Huggins said. “We really got to know each other more than people I know at home.”
On the last day of the program, six students received awards based on instructors’ observations and student participation during the workshops. Nunez earned the Most Inspirational Leader award and Osceola earned the Most Innovative Leader award.
“They said I brought the group together and was always smiling,” Nunez said. “I learned I could be myself around anyone. I didn’t know I was a leader, but I guess I do now.”