Youth Lead the Change: Day 4
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 final day at the leadership camp.
The final day! Everyone at YLC is buzzing with anticipation and preparation for the presentation we’ll give to staff, parents, and each other in the afternoon! We meet in the usual room for a quick pep talk and then we split. My group and I go to the computer lab in the science center where we all have the same Google Docs presentation open and are all working on it at the same time. Our take on the childhood obesity problem was pretending to be a division of Nike.
We stay in the lab for three hours, putting the finishing touches on every slide and running it with the projector at the front of the room countless times. Every time one of us slouches, Melanie (one of our teachers) calls out, “You’re Nike! Come on! Act like it! We got this in the bag!” It draws out grins, laughs, and leadership qualities.
We claim the first two rows in the enormous auditorium. Parents filter in slowly. I see mine, along with my sister, take a seat in the middle section. Right in the center. My group is the blue group. As we were arranged according to the rainbow, we were slated to go second to last.
Clean water. Homelessness. Obesity. Clean water. Homelessness again…
“And the blue group!”
We file up onto the stage with nervous, awkward smiles frozen on our faces. I open our PowerPoint and we begin. Whenever someone stumbles over a word or goes to the wrong slide, I blush in embarrassment, though it’s not my mistake. My three slides roll around. I talk for around 30 seconds, but it feels more like five. As I step back from telling the audience about who we are and why we care about this problem, Maeve and Claire slap me two high-fives. So, I didn’t do as bad as I thought?
We receive a loud round of applause, and as we filter out of the room, Erica and I see a little boy crying over near the bathrooms.
“I don’t wanna! I-I don’t wanna be obeeeeeese!” he says through his tears.
I can’t help smiling a little. I guess we got our point across.
These four days definitely paid off. I feel a lot more comfortable speaking in front of an audience, a well as understanding topics and strategies I wasn’t so clear on before. We had five speakers, and only one was disappointing. The others were really brilliant! I definitely recommend this to anyone and everyone who is — or wants to become — a leader!
(Photo: Kara Kubarych (left), one of the camp organizers, is the chair of Harvard's Leadership Development Initiative. (Courtesy John Vitti)