Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Building Future Leaders - Mikva Challenge

I attended an event at the headquarters of Chicago Public Schools on Monday evening where teens from around 26 Chicago area middle schools and high schools shared posters showing leadership projects they had developed and lead at their schools over the past year. I was really impressed with the work some of these teams did.

As I sat with the group of nearly 80 teens and another 20-30 adults it made me think of the annual year-end dinners held at Montgomery Ward in the 1970s and 1980s and at Cabrini Connections each year from 1993 through 2011. These dinners brought together youth, parents, volunteers and alumni to celebrate work done in the past year and to focus on work that needed to be done the next year and for many more years if youth entering 7th grade today were to be graduating from college eight to 10 years from now.

When I hosted these events I often stood in the back of the room and just watched the event unfold. I knew that without the work I had done every day for many years none of the people in the room would be there and the lives that have been transformed would not have been touched.

I think that the leaders of Mikva Challenge must feel the same way when they hold these events.

During the final part of the event there was a period of reflection where teens were invited to offer comments. I captured a few of these that I'd like to share.

"If we all come together, even though we're from different schools, we can make things happen."

"I promise to get more people in my school and community involved."

"It gave me more confidence in speaking in groups."

"Without Mikva Challenge I wold be involved in my community I'm connected with. With this program, "I'm off the streets."

I encourage you to visit the Mikva Challenge web site and learn more about events being held this week and work the organization does.

Then look at articles like this and maps that I share. Imagine if every neighborhood had one or more volunteer based tutor/mentor programs serving elementary, middle school and/or high school students, and if a map like this showed flags, indicating that each program had youth leadership teams similar to those at Mikva Challenge.

Volunteers and donors can help make that happen. So can young people who look at what students are doing in Mikva Challenge and other youth leadership programs and who decide "The buck stops with me" and begin to do the organizing and team building needed to bring such programs into the school or non-school programs that they are part of.

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