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 15th 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.
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 team-building, communication and interpersonal skills.
LU 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.
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.
Topic: Senior Citizens
Group: Young at Heart
Recently free bus tickets were eliminated by the county, requiring the seniors to pay for each ticket. Through organizing a number of fundraisers, the students raised funds to purchase enough transportation ticket books for more than 20 seniors that will enable them to go to the Senior Center for several months.
Group: Helping Hands
Students supported Grassroots by organizing a canned food drive and creating 31 “Build A Bears” to give to children throughout the holiday season.
Topic: Children With Illness
Group: Every Child Deserves a Smile
Students held fundraisers for the pediatric unit of Howard County General Hospital and used the funds to create and deliver gift baskets with activities and stuffed animals for patients.
Topic: Animal Advocacy
Group: Operation Animal Rescue
Students held fundraisers and placed donation boxes around the community to benefit the Animal Welfare Society. In addition to donating the goods received from the boxes, the students cleaned and repainted the cat house.
Topic: Supporting the Troops
Group: Saluting Our Soldiers
Students created care packages for soldiers and went to BWI airport along with the nonprofit Operation Welcome Home to greet soldiers returning home from overseas.
Topic: Students With Disabilities
Group: AACCENT on Ability
This group focused on integrating and empowering children with and without disabilities through an outdoor activity day at Centennial Park. The team also donated a beautiful rocking chair to an Arc respite home in Columbia.
In addition to inviting students to take their place and make a difference in the community through their team projects, Leadership U gives students a unique opportunity to shadow a leader for a day. In October, Shadow Day matches students with leaders from local businesses, government, or nonprofit executive directors and provides students an opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge of their host’s profession as well as the organization.
In December, students, parents and community members gather for a commencement celebration where students formally present their projects to an audience of more than 150 guests. After graduation, students are encouraged to remain active with Leadership U by utilizing their professional network and taking their place as leaders in their community.
The combination of student tuition and corporate contributions continues to allow Leadership U to provide this experience to high school juniors each year. To find out more about the program, contact Diane Freedman, director of youth programs, at 410-730-4474 or email@example.com.
Cindy Drummond is Leadership U Steering Committee chair. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.