Emma, a Youth Leadership Boot Camp participant reflects back shares her perspective on the intensive week long camp.
“I found myself a ball of nerves in the car on the way to the Boys & Girls Club’s Youth Leadership Boot Camp.
Surprisingly enough my excitement far outweighed my nervousness. Leading up to my time at leadership boot camp I had been developing as a young adult, ripping myself outside of my comfort zone and forcing myself to break my shy tendencies.
Within the first 15 minutes of this camp, we as campers had to step up as leaders when we stood to introduce ourselves and talk about our weaknesses. I was fairly comfortable with that because I had been preparing for this moment. I was ready to put myself out there and give this camp my all. As I listened and observed my fellow campers I couldn’t wait to meet and work with each one of them. The diligence that Mr. Tony and Mr. Micah took in selecting this first class of young adults showed greatly in that moment. Then came the moment when we had to say goodbye to our parents and meet our stand-in parents for the week, our group leaders.
Mr. Kevin was my group leader and from the second he introduced himself I felt a sense of security going into the week. Something I needed in absence of my mom. I knew I would have someone to talk to if needed and a person to look out for me. I think each of my teammates felt the same because of the level of comfort and ease we had talking to one another. That foundation and support system propelled me a life-changing week. Our first session was filled with questions like “who are you?” and “what causes are most important to you?” and honestly I did not know how to answer those questions. When it came to writing a personal mission statement, once again my mind went blank. However, I found that these very questions would shape my week at camp.
Later that evening we had a session with Dr. Terry Whitt Bailey and she stressed the value that everyone is important. From the presidents to street sweepers, every individual plays a part in our world and they all deserve respect. The next morning we spent a day at Camp Adventure developing our team and communication skills. My team started out bright-eyed and bushy-tailed but after a couple of exercises we all began to lose patience. It all came to a boiling point on an exercise that, of course, I was leading!
I could not help but feel that it was my fault that everyone had become extremely frustrated and I felt that it was all due to flaws in my leadership abilities. After the exercise I realized that that was the point of that activity, our Camp Adventure facilitator was helping us to understand that sometimes leaders must be followers. It just happened that I was the leader chosen to lead the other outspoken and strong leaders. I remember, in particular, that she said an individual can’t always be a leader who uses democracy, sometimes an individual has to be authoritative and tell people what to do to get the job done.
After Camp Adventure we moved into a very emotional and thought provoking session, in which I became the biggest baby ever! Mr. Tony led a session on personal stories, where we all shared about ourselves. I sat in my chair crying through everyone’s stories, I cried through telling my own even though it was happy, and I cried again later that night in reflection. The powerful nature of that workshop not only taught us all not to judge a book by its cover but it also went to
prove how welcome we all felt at the camp and how comfortable we felt to share all of our stories, happy and sad.
Next, during a session on advanced leadership, we heard from three powerful men: Coach Neu, LTC Gulley, and Mr. Percy Bland whose messages built off of one another. They call to get the most out of the people around you, practice mental toughness, understand that with conformity comes responsibility, and to trust even when it seems ridiculous to do so.
On day three of camp we heard from three awe-inspiring women: Dr. Alexander, Mrs. Griffin, and Professor Metzger. While each focused on different topics, overall I learned that violence is anything that denies human integrity and it leads to hopelessness and helplessness, to be courageous enough to have character traits others deem uncool, and that leaders have the capacity to listen to and to see others points of view. One quote that left a lasting impact on me during this session was said by Juli Metzger during her session on social media, “Shout out things you are passionate about, not people.” In this day and age it is easy to get caught up in pettiness and easy to believe that it is okay to bring people down or that something a person does permits harsh words but it never is and never does.
Thursday defied expectation! Not only did facilitators Ms. Godfrey and Mr. Mitchell help us understand and prepare for our adult lives regarding college and careers but they gave us the opportunity to interview adults in all different careers. Later that afternoon we were led by Muncie School teachers Mrs. Ryder and Mrs. Ruse-Roberts. We spent a few hours learning how to prepare and present a speech. Then came the actual writing of a speech for my graduation from camp. It was very difficult to package all of my experiences and the large impact this leadership boot camp had on me into a three minute speech but I gave it my best shot.
On the final day of leadership camp we were given the huge honor of having a panel made up of influential community members. This panel was moderated by Melanie Howe and we asked questions to Angie Pool, Mayor Dennis Tyler, Chris Kirby, Al Holdren, Sherri Contos, Heather Williams, Chris Walker, and Aimee Fant. This reinforced a lesson instilled in us all week, good leaders ask questions. This panel helped us to make connections and learn how to become involved in our community.
The week ended in a celebration where each camper shared their experiences and were rewarded with a certificate of completion. On top of that I personally received the “inquisitive award” for being a critical thinker and always asking good question which meant a great deal to me since in the past I have kept my questions to myself and not had the confidence to ask questions. This award reinforced my confidence and helped me to acknowledge that asking questions is not annoying, it actually makes you a leader.
This camp taught me that I am powerful, I am a leader and that I am the future! This boot camp encouraged me to not only dream big but to create a plan and achieve that dream. It made me a better person and a better leader. I can now understand that an individual can never stop learning and growing as a leader. One thing that I struggle with is the need to prepare for certain moments and have the perfect thing to say in certain situations.
From my time at boot camp I now know that leaders stand up all the time, leaders are always present, not just when the spotlight is on them. Leaders do things because they are passionate about it not just because someone is watching. I am immensely grateful for my time at this camp and I would do it a thousand times over. I look forward to having similar opportunities in the future and I am excited to see what I can accomplish with this new knowledge!
On my way home from the week-long camp I sat in my seat not thankful to be going home but feeling a sense of nostalgia and I knew that my time at leadership boot camp would stick with me for life.”