In Colorado Springs, there is a group of high school juniors who have the opportunity to do something that many of their peers do not. Those teens who participate in Springs Youth Challenge get to be involved in the community. And because many people think that our age group does not care, that is a big deal.
Not all the teenagers who apply to be part of Springs Youth Challenge are accepted. But those who are participate in a life changing experience. One of those experiences is the Leadership Academy, which was June 27-30 at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Before going into the Academy, I had no idea what to expect. Would it be all fun and games? Or would there be serious work involved? It proved to be a little of both.
After check-in on Sunday we met our roommates – each of whom was from a different school. Then we trudged to the meeting center, where John Bolin talked about the upcoming week. After that, we said good-bye to our parents and went to meet some of our fellow students.
After dinner we designed school posters and created a cheer, an exercise that was designed to show the rest of the group who we really were. After much embarrassment we were finally allowed to cavort with the rest of the students in an unrestrained manner.
The second day at the academy proved to be the most beneficial. We met a man named Andre Martin of the Center for Creative Leadership who would become very familiar to us within the next few days. His first speech was quite inspirational. We compared our personal hero’s journey to the journey that we will someday take. We also heard about diversity from Helen Upton of Springs CAN.
The afternoon brought my fondest memory from the Academy. We took a field-trip to City Hall and learned the importance of balancing a budget and being involved in government.
Day three was the most fun. We were treated to the advice of prominent business figures from the Colorado Springs area, including: Lon Matejczyk of the Colorado Springs Business Journal; Robert Wonnett, the dean of students at UCCS; John Cassiani of the Economic Development Corp.; Michelle Narron of the Phil Long Dealerships; Larry Shafer of Boeing; and Rebecca Dunn of the Antlers Hilton Hotel.
We also listened to another installment of Martin’s program, which was followed by a team-building exercise. After lunch students split into individual groups for a community service field trip. The groups went to the Humane Society, Sunrise Assisted Living, Greccio, Silver Key, Colorado Springs Day Nursery, Ecumenical Social Ministries and The Union Printers Home. We helped clean homes of the elderly and sang to the fruitful youth, among other things.
The final day was the most heartbreaking. We had to say good-bye to the friends we had made, and the experiences we had shared.
If there was one thing that could be improved about the Academy, it would be more time. Martin talked to us a final time and then waved a heartfelt good-bye and wished us good luck. Our leaders had shared their experiences about the program and gave us a look into how their lives had changed.
I can honestly say that my favorite part about last summer was the Academy. I forged relationships with people I hope that I will never forget. And I learned more in three days than I could have hoped to learn in four years.
On behalf of all the students involved in the program I would like to say thank you to everyone who made this year possible.
Stuart Cobb is a junior at Cheyenne Mountain High School.