October 27, 2010
High school students begin youth leadership program
Members of the Cortland County Youth Leadership program set to work Tuesday on deciding community service projects for the upcoming year.
Organizations such as the Salvation Army, the Cortland County SPCA and Red Cross were mentioned by the students as places they would like to do project for.
The leadership program selects about 30 students from high schools in the county to participate in a program to improve their leadership skills. The program is run by volunteers and relies on grants and donations to operate.
The youth leadership program is in its seventh year. The students participating in the program, about 35, are expected to create community service projects and improve their leadership skills.
The students in the program have the potential to be leaders, but might need a little chiding, said Joe Cortese, a Homer High School teacher, who volunteers with the leadership program.
The students were selected by their respective districts to apply to the leadership program.
Participating high schools include: Cortland Junior-Senior High School, Cortland Alternative High School, Homer Central High School, McGraw High School, Marathon High School, Cincinnatus High School and DeRuyter High School.
The first session, held Tuesday, started with an ice breaker in the Beard Building at the Cortland Downtown Partnership offices, at 9 Main St. in Cortland, and continued at the SUNY Cortland campus with a game of broomball, an ice hockey game played wearing shoes rather than ice skates, as a teambuilding exercise and a discussion on how students can give back to the community, a tenet of leadership, a director said.
“The kids are great,” said Manny Lann, director of the Cortland County Youth Bureau. “It’s all about youth development.”
The students told Lann and the other adult leaders about their project ideas, including sending red handprints to corrupt governments to cease the recruitment of children soldiers. That initiative is part of Red Hands. The will decide which project to do in the coming weeks, Lann said.
Machell Phelps, director of the Cortland County Regional Sports Council and volunteer for the leadership program, said the program is a resource for students to hone their developing leadership skills.
Phelps is a past participant in Leadership Cortland, a similarly designed adult program, and is a founder of the youth leadership program and also sits on the advisory board for the youth leadership program. In 2003, Phelps worked with other members in the adult program to develop the youth program.
“It encouraged me to try something I probably would not have had I not gone through the program,” Phelps said, stating she would not have even applied for her current position.
Luke Henkel, 16, a sophomore at Cortland Junior-Senior High School, concedes he is shy. In class, Henkel does not raise his hand, although he might have something interesting to say, and might know an answer. He also does not want to look like a fool.
“I didn’t want to say anything stupid,” Henkel said recalling memories when he sat in class, allowing silence overcome him.
After the first session, Henkel said he has enough confidence to not worry about what classmates or teachers think of his statements. To test himself, Henkel said he will ask one question in school each day.
Henkel promised to use what he learned at the first session to inspire himself and others. If he sees a student being shy in class he will talk to the student and encourage them to talk in class.
Trips to the Cortland Regional Medical Center, Cortland County Jail and Cortland County Courthouse are planned for the participants.
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