Since September, select high school students have gathered weekly to discover and develop leadership skills during the inaugural Tipton Youth Leadership Program. This spring, the group will apply that knowledge to a service projects that addresses the region’s most pressing issues.
Kegan Schmicker, executive director for the Tipton County Chamber of Commerce, said the program aims to empower students to impact the community and gain confidence about their abilities to lead and create chance. Educating them about varying leadership and communication styles is the “first step toward growing tomorrow’s leaders,” he added.
“The leadership curriculum helps them better understand how to work as a group and recruit others to a shared vision,” Schmicker said. “Learning different work personality and communication types helps students communicate better and assign work so tasks get done and get done well.”
All people have the capacity to lead,
Schmicker said he hopes students realize how easy it is to impact their community through hard work. Leading the targeted sessions is Ted Ward, a longtime Shafer Leadership Academy facilitator. Ward said the sessions are a fun and engaging way to gain self-awareness, leadership skills, and a “serving others” mindset.
“All people have the capacity to lead,” said Ward, who has worked in education, training and development in a variety of industries for more than 25 years. “Leadership is often about taking a risk, stepping outside our comfort zone, and sharing experiences with others along our journey. The earlier we start to develop a leadership mindset and related skills, the more practice we have as we move through our education and career development.”
The program kicked off in September with a full-day retreat before weekly meetings that fostered self-reflection, explored community issues, set expectations, and discussed conflict management. The gatherings turned into workshops for identified groups of students to decide on a community service project, to develop a mission statement and timeline, and to distribute the work.
Sessions ended in early December, but the teams will spend the spring working with community partners to carry out their projects. Each group will present about the process and outcomes during a final celebration in April. Ward said the experience empowers participants to realize leadership in action.
“It’s a memorable way to foster their own growth, support their peers, and leave a legacy in service to others in their community,” Ward said. “It’s a great display that might be appropriate for use on college/scholarship applications, and perhaps in employment processes.”
The program is a partnership among the Tipton County Chamber of Commerce, Tipton Community Schools, Tri-Central Community Schools, and Shafer Leadership Academy. Mitch Isaacs, executive director of SLA, said the program has allowed the Muncie-based nonprofit to expand its regional reach and engage younger participants. The hope, he added, is to continue the program with up to 30 teens each year.
“Shafer Leadership Academy serves all of East Central Indiana, and this program is an example of our commitment to the region and to growing leaders who may stay to invest their energy and expertise into their home state,” Isaacs said. “We’ve had success with a similar program in Muncie, and we are excited to help young people realize their potential and make a difference in their communities.”
Learn more about the Tipton Youth Leadership Program and other leadership development experiences for all ages at shaferleadership.com/tiptonyouth.