We helped The Guiding Lights Network and two AmeriCorps mentors show some sixth graders in Washington that they could, in fact, be leaders.
Back in March, GOOD Maker and The Guiding Lights Network joined forces to crowdsource great ideas for revitalizing citizenship. We're happy to report that thanks to the challenge's $1,000 award, the winning idea became reality this month.
The brains behind the winning idea, the Youth Revitalization Project, were AmeriCorps mentors Shannon Keleher and Liz Lanning. They held a two day spree of citizenship and revelry on June 11 and 12 tailored just for sixth graders in Port Angeles, Washington. The retreat blended valuable (but not boring) teambuilding activities like Capture the Flag and blindfolded trust hikes with lessons on leadership, self-reflection time, and workshops on conflict resolution.
The students chosen to attend not only demonstrated leadership, but were dealing with complexities in family life or other significant challenges. Six AmeriCorps mentors served as leadership mentors and organizers. The ultimate takeaway for the 11- to 12-year-old kids? That they could rise above adversity and lead, regardless of their home lives. An important lesson, to be sure.
"A lot of what we were trying to show to them was trying to build their confidence. They don’t always have the best support at home, they don’t know that they can graduate, they think they’ll go work a minimum wage job after school," explains Keleher. "There isn’t a whole lot of inspiration. But they have the capability to do so much more. We're trying to get them to become actively engaged around them, whether it's school, community, friends even—in every step of the ladder we're trying to get them to care."
The first retreat was a success, and the program is set to become an annual, self-sustaining project.
"It was amazing to watch their personal growth. The fact that they can say, 'Ok, I can step up for people. I can be a guiding hand for those who are a little lost,'" Keleher says. The goal is for this year's attendees to take the reins and help lead next year's campers. Keleher and Lanning also hope to write a manual for AmeriCorps that will allow other schools to follow in their footsteps.
We're glad we could help.
Photos courtesy of Shannon Keleher.