In December 2010, I will be graduating from Marquette University with degrees in Marketing and Entrepreneurship and entering the business world. How should I spend my last summer of "freedom"? I knew right away I wanted to spend it with Lead America. Lead America is the nation's premier youth leadership organization. I decided to be a Team Leader for the Media and Journalism program. I felt confident about the summer since I am a Lead America alumni myself. I also worked as a Team Leader for the Global Business and Entrepreneurship program in the summer of 2008. However, part of me was nervous. New students, new venue (I have never been to Fordham). Before I knew it, all my worries disappeared.
This beautiful Jesuit University located in a gated area of the Bronx was a great location for a Lead America conference. Similar to Stanford, it had a lot of open areas and space for activities. It was nice to take my team to a big open grassy areas and perform leadership activities outside. We shared the venue with the Theater and Law conferences so there was never a dull moment.
Speakers & Off - Sites
Once again, NYC did not disappoint, providing some of the best speakers and off sites in the country. Our students heard from Jon Wertheim, Senior sports writer for Sports Illustrated, who was glad to come back and speak to our students. He stressed the importance of having good research to make the writing process easier (and I stressed that to my team later on). Another great speaker was Lillian Smith, the CEO of LS Production Works and former Producer, Donahue. The all - star cast continued with Monique Fortune, President of Fortune Associates and Steve Daly from Entertainment Weekly. To top it off, the students heard from Samuel Freedman, a Columbia University professor and a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
The students enjoyed a day at Ellis Island, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square. As a reward, we took groups to the NBA Store and H&M (trust me, they appreciated it).
Media & Journalism related visits included the Paley center, where students watched a documentary about investigative reporting (It was great), Columbia University, and an NBC studio tour (Yes, we saw the SNL studio as well as many other studios and control rooms). For the first time, we were able to tour the NY Times printing facility in Queens. Although my team went on a Saturday and many printing lines were closed, the students got an in depth look at a printing facility of one of the most successful newspapers in the world. However, perhaps the most memorable off site happened on day 5, as we all went on the CBS Early Show. We had to be up at 5 am but what teenagers don't want to be on national television? It was definitely an exciting, and very beneficial off site program.
A major part of the ten day conference is spent on a simulation in which students must create a magazine or newspaper, as well as a broadcast program. At first I was worried that my team will have trouble deciding on a magazine theme but to my surprise, my team was the first to decide. In the beginning, I pushed my team to think outside of the box, and to come up with topics that are unique. In the back of my head I knew that most students are interested in sports, gossip, and entertainment and wanted my team to develop a theme that will separate them from the competition. We had the following suggestions: NYC theme, Green theme, Entertainment theme. Suddenly, a student suggested to combine the three into one magazine. The final product would be "Destination: Manhattan", a monthly magazine highlighting a different city each issue. The August 2010 issue concentrated on the Manhattan borough, and featured articles about NYC's green initiative, an NYC entertainment portion, and featured a review of the new Broadway show "UP", which my team created (my team reviewed the play as if they were actually sitting in the audience, and also wrote a song that a team member performed during the broadcast). Realizing that quality research will make the reporting much easier, the field reporters conducted interviews, took photos, and did extensive research in order to get the best stories. The hard work payed off as Team C won the Pulitzer Prize (Top 3 teams received medals with the top team winning the prize). I was extremely proud of their hard work, dedication, and at the end they celebrated the results.
This team was very different from all the other teams I had at Lead America. While I was used to Business students being outgoing and very high energy, my team C was the complete opposite during the first day. They were quiet, they seemed indifferent, but they were extremely well behaved. On day two I had a conversation with a fellow TL and I told her: "These kids will start talking as time goes by. At least they are VERY well behaved." I was correct. As the days went by, the team became very close. We taped a very nice "Green Initiative" commercial for our simulation on day 3 which my team directed and executed. A few people described it as "something you would see on the Disney Channel." Because everyone contributed to the commercial, and it had a good natured theme, I believe it really brought the team closer. We also had a lot of off sites which required time on the buses which gave students time to bond. Once again, I told my team I expect them to be the best behaved, have the best product, and form the closest bonds. Check, check, check! Even though close friendships were formed between members of different teams, I could always spot most of the team sitting together or socializing during off-sites. One of the most memorable pictures of the conference came on the last day. As the first bus was leaving to the airport, 5 of my students stood patiently, tears in their eyes. Then, they took off... after the bus! they ran, smiling and waving to their friends one last time. The loved one another, and refused to leave even a second early.
Teams A, B, C, D, E
Since this was a Media & Journalism conference, there were many more girls than guys. In fact, out of 80 total students, 60 were girls! Perhaps that is the reason they were so well behaved. Mr. Williams, the Program Director, makes it very clear in the beginning of each conference that he wants to treat the students as adults, and will reward them when they prove that they deserve it. The rewards came very early this conference, as we let the students have bigger boundaries during off sites, took them to Pinkberry and had nightly rap sessions. Every conference has its own story, its own personality. For some reason, the students during this conference had a passion for rhyming. One student on my team, Dayne, is a very talented rapper and his talent for rhymes spread across the conference. Being a fan of rhyming myself, we held nightly rap sessions where students could freestyle or perform the raps they wrote that day. Needless to say, students loved it! These were very smart, talented students and I have no doubt in my mind that each and every one of them will be successful in the future. Today, the students still keep in close touch and are planning reunions all over the country. I really enjoyed myself this session, and felt like the summer ended on an extremely high and positive note.
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. - John Quincy Adams