Muncie, IN —Diplomacy, collaboration and networking were pegged as important attributes for some of Muncie’s most engaged community leaders, as they closed out a weeklong Youth Leadership Boot Camp Friday.
Twenty-five students, grades 8-12, attended the weeklong residential program on the campus of Ball State University. The Boys & Girls Club of Muncie in partnership with Champions for a Safe Community and Ball State University, Office of Community Engagement which sponsored the clinic, which focused on everything from public speaking, conflict management, using social media appropriately and team building.
Jamel Barnes, who will be a senior at Central High School this year, said the week was one of self-discovery.
“Five days ago I was kind of selfish leader,” Barnes said. “I was a leader in a way that made myself look good. But now, putting other people in front of me …that’s what I learned. I’m getting better at that now.”
Micah Maxwell, Executive Director for the Boys & Girls Club, said the week was intensive and rigorous. Students were pushed and they pushed each other. They were assigned to small groups that were assembled to force them out of their comfort zones. Each day started with wake-up at 6:30 a.m. and ended with lights out at 11 p.m.
“This was our first Youth Leadership Boot Camp,” explained Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Micah Maxwell. “It’s awesome to watch the teenagers grow as the week went on.”
Mayor Dennis Tyler was on a panel discussion about how to get engaged in the community.
“Don’t let anyone tell you there’s no such thing as the American dream,” he told students. “I’m the epitome of the American dream. I grew up in a broken household. It was abusive. I struggled. Today, I’m the mayor of Muncie. You can do it, too.”
Throughout the week the students participated in different sessions that built on each other to build them as stronger leaders. From learning about themselves, each other, to working in teams and then learning about their communities, they have a good understanding of what good leadership looks like. Before and after sessions they were encouraged to journal privately and given opportunities to share publically.
Participants said the experience was one they’ll remember and they took away new skills they’ll use right away.
JaeAudra Harris, who will be a senior at Yorktown High School this year, said one of the best experiences of the week came at Camp Adventure.
“I was with a team and we had to overcome obstacles,” she said. “We had to trust our team. I learned about trust and communication. I learned being a leader you don’t always have to be the smartest. You need to speak up, and to communicate but you can be in the back of the classroom and still be a leader.
The week culminated with a graduation ceremony where each student gave a speech. Many were apprehensive about the speech requirement for graduation, even after the session on public speaking.
“They all gave outstanding presentations that focused on what they learned from the camp,” Maxwell said.
Students participated at no charge. Funding for the program was provided by the Champions for a Safe Community Fund, Ball State University; Office of Community Engagement; and Urban Light Community Church and staff from the Boys & Girls Club oversaw the weeklong experience.