Leadership U invites students in Howard County to “take their place” and step into the role of leaders and change agents in their community.
Now in its 16th year, Leadership U (LU) is a rewarding four-month leadership development and community service opportunity that gives motivated teens with leadership capability the chance to develop their potential, participate in youth-driven community service projects and create a network of friends and professionals from around the county.
Leadership U is about learning and applying leadership skills students can apply and utilize throughout the program. In addition to the basic building blocks of leadership training, students learn how to communicate with adults, organize and run meetings and develop and maintain a professional network.
Students start their experience with a summer training week that includes a trip to Terrapin Adventures, where they participate in challenge courses designed to develop teambuilding, communication and interpersonal skills.
Leadership U students spend the rest of the summer week participating in a personalized tour of leadership in Howard County, including the opportunity to spend a day with government officials, participate in a diversity in leadership training program, tour the hospital, visit the detention center, spend time at a senior center and meet community leaders from numerous health and human service organizations.
On the last day of the summer program, the class divides into project teams, each guided by an adult coach. The teams research and design community service projects based on their week-long summer community experience and on the issues on which they feel they can have an impact.
From August through December of their junior year, students meet bi-monthly to plan, organize and implement their projects. During these meetings, students have the opportunity to work with their new friends and team members and continue to develop leadership skills such as networking, project planning, business communications and time management.
Local business and community leaders stop by throughout the Leadership U Sunday work sessions to share leadership insights, life lessons and “light-bulb moments” with students and encourage them to create their own.
Leadership U offers a rare opportunity for students to own every step of the project and feel the true meaning of challenge and success. Every decision they make and action they take is on their own merit, and the final product shows students that they are responsible for their accomplishments.
The Leadership U class of 2010 stepped up to take their place around the county with projects and activities that included the following.
Welcome Home Event
This Leadership U group created a project to honor returning servicemen and -women. It included three parts: first, partnering with Operation Welcome Home Maryland to organize a “Welcome Home Event” at BWI airport, then reaching out to local schools and senior centers for bottled water and bagged snacks donations and collecting thank-you cards from library groups and schools. The donated food and beverages, as well as thank-you cards, were placed in “goodie bags” for returning troops. The students advertised the event and organized card-making activities by contacting student organizations and service-based clubs in schools and through library contacts.
The team also created a Facebook page that contained helpful information about the Welcome Home event and ways individuals could donate.
The Welcome Home Event was held on Friday, Oct. 28, with 300 servicemen and -women being greeted by a sea of supporters, including a dynamic group of Leadership U students and their friends.
Grammy’s 4 Grammies
Students provided entertainment for the seniors at the Florence Bain Senior Center by incorporating different performances from Howard County high schools in order to showcase the youths’ artistic talent. Students also provided information to the senior center so it can contact high schools to coordinate student group visits in the future.
Claudia Mayer Cancer
Students held bake sales and sold wristbands to raise money for the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center. Students also created and donated gift baskets for patients at the center.
Students raised funds and supplies for the Domestic Violence Center (DVC), which provides services to victims of domestic violence in Howard County. Through these funds, the group assembled “get-away bags” to donate to the DVC. These bags will be placed in the DVC’s various safe houses and given to victims that had to flee from dangerous situations.
This year’s environmental LU group focused on composting education and awareness. Students presented activities to several gifted and talented middle school classes that taught how to compost and its positive effects.
The Noble Ones
This project served the children in Howard County with special needs. Students created cookbooks for children at The Arc of Howard County respite house, with nutritional information and the skills to independently make basic meals. In addition, students created a special evening for the children where they cooked and ate the recipes together.
Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies
Students introduced elementary kids to healthy living and the positive benefits of an active lifestyle. The group was modeled after the national “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity and undernourishment by working with schools to develop health-awareness. “Healthy minds, healthy bodies” created two after-school programs with the Roselyn Rise Community Center to help students learn healthy habits through play.
Cindy Drummond is the Leadership U Steering Committee Chair, and is a member of Leadership Howard County’s board of directors. She can be reached at email@example.com.