Now entering its 20th year, Leadership U (LU) continues to enjoy success as one of Howard County’s prominent programs for high school juniors. Each year, up to 50 students from public and private schools are guided through the program, where they learn about leadership development, teamwork and giving back.
Each program year begins with an intensive summer week in early August. Throughout the week, students are exposed to various aspects of the county, learning about how the county operates, services that are available and challenges that citizens are faced with.
They also go through teambuilding activities and learn more about leadership from several prominent professionals. By the end of summer week, students take an active role in determining what issues they’d like to address and move into the next phase of the program: creating a unique project that gives back to the community.
Throughout the fall, students work in groups to develop, implement and analyze service projects that have a direct impact on a segment of the Howard County population. Through this process, they learn valuable communication and time management skills and general teamwork in an open environment where support is offered through volunteer mentors and other resources.
As there are no grades, the learning experience is student-driven, and learning is achieved through more than just the success of the projects. During each session, a speaker is invited to enlighten the students about various aspects of leadership through short discussions called “Light Bulb Moments.”
New to the program this past year was 3D-HC (Dig Deep and Discover, Howard County). Its goal was to have the students get an up-close look at the important work done by nonprofits in our community.
Five nonprofits hosted teams of students who spent a day meeting staff and working on projects directly with clients. They also learned valuable lessons about serving on boards and committees, and just what it takes to make these operations run successfully.
Everything culminates in December with a graduation ceremony. In addition to students and their families, regular graduation attendees include school faculty and elected officials, as well as many other important figures from the community. The students present their projects to the audience and share their experiences in a fun, entertaining setting.
The Leadership Howard County staff supports Leadership U as well. In addition, the invaluable contributions from LU’s mentors, Steering Committee members, Light Bulb Moment speakers, Summer Week chaperones and more are critical to making this program as special as it is. Graduates of Leadership U, Leadership Essentials and Leadership Premier frequently offer their time and expertise in order to enhance the students’ experience.
The selection process for the class of 2015 is now in progress, and even more improvements are being made to the program to ensure that the 20th graduating class develops friendships, experiences and skills that will last a lifetime.
Alex Adler is president at HGA Financial. A member of the Leadership Premier Class of 2010, he serves as chair of the Leadership U steering committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.