Youth Leadership Institute gives hands-on experience

CHARLESTON — The Cathedral Center hosted the Prudential Youth Leadership Institute June 18-20 and July 16-18.

In the first session, 10 students represented schools and youth groups from throughout the Charleston area. Five Cathedral teens took part: Eileen Santos, Colleen Cullinan, Anika Moore, Chris Cooper, and Camby Lewis. In the second workshop five students came from St. Patrick’s: Justin Walker, Ashley Heyward, Gloria Harrison, Courtney Wragg, and Corey Gice, and Erin Nussbaum represented the Cathedral.

The program was created in 1996 by the Prudential Insurance Company of America. In partnership with Youth Service America and the Center for Creative Leadership, the Institute is currently administered by The Points of Light Foundation. Since 1996, the program, which trains teen-agers in community leadership and service skills, has been implemented in more than 150 U.S. communities and served more than 4,000 students.

During the three-day training sessions at the Cathedral, the youth participated in classroom and experiential activities to develop leadership skills such as creating a vision, community needs assessment, communication and implementation. Representatives from Teenline/Hotline, Lowcountry AIDS Services, The Volunteer Center, The American Cancer Society and East Cooper Meals on Wheels shared experiences with teens during the Community Panel discussion. The students interviewed agency representatives about the programs to help plan a community service project.

The Institute agenda includes training based on curriculum created by the Center for Creative Leadership. Program participants get hands-on experience when they coordinate a community service project, which is organized during the three days and completed in the days following.

The kids took part in activities to help them understand the components of planning and implementing through teamwork. They worked on trust and communication during the Blind Trust Walk. In pairs, the students take turns guiding their blindfolded partner to a destination.

The teens at the first Charleston meeting organized a project with the East Cooper Meals on Wheels. Six of the students delivered meals to seniors in the Mount Pleasant area, and four students prepared meals for the 212 people served by the meal program.

Students from the second workshop organized a project working with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. At the SPCA the students exercised and played with the animals at the shelter and learned how to take care of cats and dogs. They also learned about legal issues and consequences of abuse and neglect.

Funding from The Points of Light Foundation and the S.C. Department of Alcohol and other Drug Abuse Services and the Department of Health and Environmental Control allows for the program to be free for participants.

The final step in the Institute’s curriculum is a graduation ceremony. A Back to School  Back to Service graduation ceremony will be held in August for the participants in the Charleston program. The students will also receive a certificate in the mail noting their participation in community service.

Maria Metcalf, program specialist with the Charleston Center, coordinates the Institute program in the region. She is hoping to gain corporate sponsorship which would allow for future Institutes to take place in the area. She also hopes to help students stay active in community service projects.

Marie Donnelly, youth minister at the Cathedral, indicated that Metcalf was very impressed with the students at this summer’s Institute sessions. They showed a terrific ability to connect their faith with doing good works within their communities, Donnelly said.

For more information about the program, visit the Institute Web site at