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Academy aims to develop students into leaders

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By Sharon Graves

About 150 Carroll County students learned and practiced leadership skills at the all-day Leadership Academy on Friday, Oct. 31, at Camp Kysoc.

It was the first time students from both the middle and high schools attended together, according to instructional coaches Gerda Wise (CCMS) and Nancy Simpson (CCHS), who brought the students together with adult leaders from the schools and the community to teach teamwork, collaboration and how to depend on each other.

Fires built in the lodge and in an outdoor firepit helped to take the chill off the otherwise beautiful fall day, as the young people were divided into groups to participate in physical challenges at the camp’s climbing wall and “zip” line, and in a game of tug-of-war, and mental challenges that included problem-solving puzzles.

Speaker Ted Wiese, a nationally known corporate trainer and motivational speaker, taught morning and afternoon seminars on leadership and team-building.

In each seminar, Wiese divided the teens into groups of eight to 10. Each group was given two goals in forming a bridge-building company: First, they had to come up with a slogan; second, they had to build a bridge using only 10 pieces of newspaper, 10 straws and some tape. The bridge had to span between two chairs, set 18 inches apart, and had to be strong enough so that a toy Tonka truck could be pulled across.

“If you take the newspaper and throw it together, I guarantee it won’t work,” Wiese warned. “You have to think, ‘What can we do with the newspaper and the straws and the tape to make these materials stronger than they originally were?’”

They had 30 minutes to complete both tasks. When it came time to test their bridges, Wiese played the song, “Another One Bites the Dust,” if he thought the bridge would fail. The successful groups were high-schoolers; the middle-schoolers’ bridges didn’t stand up, Gerda Wise said. “About three-fourths of the high school bridges withstood the test, but none of the middle school bridges made it across.”

Students selected to attend the event were those identified as gifted and talented in art, leadership, academics, music, drama and dance, Wise said.

Adults participating included nine employees from Dow Corning and three parent volunteers.

“Donna Burns of Dow had coordinated their employees, who were selected to come because of their leadership skills,” Wise said.

“I think there is a leader in all of us, and we hope to increase the leadership skills in all of our students,” Wise said. “We will be having mini-leadership academies throughout the year to reinforce what was learned that day.”