The Truman Youth Leadership Academy led twenty-one campers through a curriculum of Respect, Responsibility, Discovery, Excellence, and Service as they convened for the fourth installment of the Academy last week. Fifteen girls and six boys participated in activities designed to enhance leadership skills, community service and civic engagement. Highlights of the camp featured a tour and City Council simulation at Columbia City Hall, an examination of the 1948 Berlin Blockade through the White House Decision Center, a service project to clean up Flat Branch Creek and a trip to Jefferson City to tour the Capitol and Supreme Court.
To begin the week, the students first identified their core values (Discovery) and used this information to develop ideal service projects. Next, they performed a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) to assess their organizations and later in the program, revisited their ideas, to discuss impact and changes. They created timelines of service projects they had been involved with and made projections for future endeavors.
Precluding the city council simulation, students played the Representative’s Dilemma, involving acceptance or rejection of a Boone County infrastructure tax, studied policy formation and held elections for mayoral and city council positions (Responsibility). They employed this knowledge in their city council simulation, where they considered, amended and voted on an actual curfew ordinance the City of Columbia is considering implementing for youth.
At mid-week, the students spent time with Moises Aguayo to learn how to handle difficult dialogues, including highly charged political conversations and hot topics like the 2016 presidential election, same sex marriage, abortion and bullying. They traveled to Flat Branch Creek to spend time on a public service project to remove garbage from the creek and park (Service).
Thursday’s theme was Respect and at the State Historical Society, the students toured the art gallery, examined the political works of Thomas Hart Benton and Caleb Bingham and discussed past Missouri leaders. In the afternoon, the Director of the White House Decision Center, Mary McMurray, presented the Berlin Blockade and students assumed roles in the Truman cabinet, the press and geo-political world to resolve the crisis using actual briefings. After briefing, discussion and debate, the students elected to use the British airfield, evacuate Berliners, drop supplies and weighed the possibility of deploying the bomb to force the Soviets into submission.
Capping off the week long Academy, staff and students traveled to Jefferson City for a guided tour at the Capitol building, (Excellence) which houses the Executive and Legislative branches of Missouri government. The students learned about the state legislative process, observed the General Assembly floor and took in the lavish decoration of the state’s home structure and popular three-point perspective murals. Following the Capitol tour, the Academy visited the State Supreme Court and Law Library, meeting and speaking with Missouri Supreme Court Judge, Mary R. Russell, who began her career as a law clerk. The students learned about the judicial system in Missouri as well as the hiring process for judges in the state. She welcomed the students warmly, encouraged feminine leadership and answered questions.
Each day of the Academy ended with a period of reflection. Other activities included the Selfie Scavenger Hunt, developing SMART goals, lunch at local restaurants and games. The Academy closed its fourth year with the customary Leadership Taps, a quiet ceremony where staff read statements and “tap” campers on the shoulder who demonstrated the leadership characteristics in the readings.