Youth Lead the Change: Day 1
Editor’s note: Sawyers Ames is an eighth-grader at Watertown Middle School in Massachusetts. At the end of August, she attended a new camp run by The Leadership Institute at Harvard University for Boston-area kids in 7th through 10th grades. The purpose of the free camp, Youth Lead the Change!, was to help find the next generation of leaders and to give them some tools to speak out and learn how to make a difference.
The following is Sawyer’s look at her first day at the leadership camp.
“I’m going to Harvard! We’re going to Harvard!” I screech, grabbing Julia’s forearm as the two of us walk through Wigglesworth Hall. I think it goes without saying that I am excited, but with every step I take closer to Emerson Hall, it feels more like butterflies. Big, hyper, flapping butterflies in my stomach.
“Name?” one of the undergrads running the program asks me.
“Great! Right through those doors, and it’s your first room on the right!” she says with an enormous smile.
I nod and follow her directions. I find myself in what looks like a mini auditorium. I’m immediately taken aback. “Give Me Everything Tonight,” is coming out of the speakers, and all of the teachers are milling around. They’re really the only ones that look comfortable in this setting. All of the kids sit in black chairs, bags perched on their laps. Some make small talk with others next to them. Even some smiles! Gasp! But most of them stare straight ahead.
It’s around five minutes before Kara bounds into the room. She claps her hands loudly and the music comes to a stop.
“Who am I?” she asks us with a gleam in her eye. We’re puzzled. She jumps up on the platform and writes the question on the board before whirling back around to face us. “That’s the question for today! We are going to find out what kind of leaders we all are! But first — we gotta break the ice! Come on! Follow me!”
Fifty-five kids with awkward smiles and wary looks get up and hitch their bags over their shoulders. Kara leads us into the yard next to Emerson. We’re instructed to get in a circle, and one by one, run to the middle and shout our name and school. We do, and by the end, everyone is laughing at how over-the-top some people made their statement. Who would’ve thought something like that could be fun?
We play a few other games, team-building kinds of things, and then filter back in pumped up from the start to our morning. We have a short break and some people socialize. I’m not one of those people.
“Are you ready for the PATH OF LIFE, everyone?” Gabe (another one of the counselors) jumps into the middle of the hallway.
We look up, startled, and he tells us to divide into our groups. There’s a lot of inspecting name-tags to see which color group we were placed in, as well as numerous sympathetic glances between friends as they move into rooms opposite each other. I was in blue. No one else I knew that well was, but hey, no big deal.
The Path of Life ends up being pretty much just that. We are all given a sheet of paper, and a pen. The activity is to draw a line, with ups and downs corresponding with how your life has been so far. Then label them, and make a symbol representing the event or what it meant to you. The only real dip in my line was the sixth grade. My trip to Morocco and seventh grade were pretty much straight up!
The rest of the afternoon passes by quickly with more team-building trust games and a break or two. With about an hour and a half left before dismissal, we are all given a small quiz. “Leadership Compass” was the title at the top of the page.
I end up being north and south: North meaning I was controlling and liked to be in charge. South meaning I was creative, and a visionary. Pretty accurate.
(Photo: Gabe Lloyd is the Assistant Chair of the Leadership Development Initiative (courtesy John Vitti))