It’s not often that a program for teens has an impact. The Youth Leadership Academy at the Warwick Valley Community Center has shown that forming young and future leaders can do just that. The program in its ninth year has evolved over time. Thirteen to twenty teens are selected through an application and interview process and become a part of a class that meets for four weeks during the summer.
Every day is filled with information and initiatives to develop leadership skills – this includes guests and field trips. This is the first time that many of these teens interact with community leaders. Over the four weeks bonds are made and friendships emerge which strengthens the experience. Since the program has been developing leaders for many years there has been an extension of the original Academy in the form of a Youth Advisory Board to capture and further reinforce the skill of these young men and women.
The Youth Advisory Board is a mentoring program that meets throughout the year. In addition to the Academy and the Youth Advisory Board is a new initiative called the Youth Task Force which is a re-boot of earlier leadership training. Teens from the two previous years participate in a program that is an intensive course in advocacy. In this shorter period teens take a deeper, harder look at issues such as suicide prevention and the effects of alcohol, tobacco and drugs in society. Through the initial experience in the Leadership Academy the participants are prepared to take this next step towards awareness and leadership development.
Leadership is best taught by leaders. Rob Corter has been overseeing the Academy for the past four years and it is apparent through his insight to teens that he has had a direct positive influence on these young men and women. He is accompanied by a group of counselors and mentors that this year includes Sabrina Rice, Evan Floreck, Brendan Eder, Laura Kaplan, Sean Parkinson and Travis Stella. Many of the counselors are graduates of the Academy.
The Leadership Academy is partially funded by the Village of Warwick and the Youth Bureau of Orange County. Thank you to The Warwick Community Center Director Karen Thomas and Coalition Director Annie Colonna for offering this inspired and vital program. To have watched the program grow over the years and to see its direct influence on so many of our teens has been rewarding for myself and all involved in the development of young leaders. There are many choices – the Leadership Academy, Youth Advisory Board and Youth Task Force are all programs that will help to form meaningful and responsible decisions for these teens and young adults. The future will be in good hands because of initiatives such as these that touch the lives of our youth.