Youth learn leadership skills through countywide leadership program

Gladwin County high school youth have the opportunity to join a youth leadership program to learn leadership skills and understand community connections.

High school youth may sometimes wonder what they would like to see happen or change in their community. Gladwin County youth now have the chance to join other youth in learning hands-on leadership skills that will help them become successful adults. Through a county leadership program, youth have a chance to explore their community, learn about its history, visit a local jail, attend a mock trial in the circuit courtroom and visit a nearby high school to compare classes and rules.

In 2006, Gladwin County started an adult leadership program under the guidance of Michigan State University Extension. The committee decided to offer a youth leadership program and invited high school youth to be a part of the nine-month program. Youth from both Gladwin County high schools were selected not based on academics, but having some type of leadership qualities per the after school program called SPARKS. The school principals and the after school teachers met and selected five high school youth from each school, ranging from sophomores to seniors. After the first year of meeting with the adults, the committee reviewed the modules and the evaluations from youth and adults, and decided to offer a separate five-month class for youth only.

This successful five-month youth leadership session has been ongoing for the last five years as a separate program and has reached over 60 youth. They meet once a month starting in January where they open up with a True Colors personality assessment. They also write an autobiography which they share among each other in a fun, learning way.

The second session in February is when they get to visit the local county jail and tour the 911 center with the sheriff being the teacher. Once they finish the tour, they visit the circuit court and do role playing with a former circuit court judge.

The third session in March consists of the local transit to take them on a countywide tour visiting historical places, a farm, city dam, thermoforming business and other spots in the county. This opens their eyes on the negatives and positives of the county from a youth perspective. This also ties in with the last session when youth have to do a five-minute Power Point presentation on what they would like to see changed in the county and share their likes and dislikes.

The fourth session is held at the other high school so youth can take turns hosting each other. This is the educational component where the principals or superintendents come and youth can ask questions. Additional leadership activities are led. Topics focusing on interview skills, the professional handshake, entrepreneurship ideas and other career and work force preparation ideas are presented.

The last session ends with adults and youth being together for the day and listening to keynote speakers discuss tourism, culture and arts. Adults and youth share their presentations, then a graduation ceremony is held to honor and recognize each of the participants.

As part of the Michigan 4-H youth programs, more information on youth leadership programs and career exploration are found at the MSU Extension website.

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