Honing Youth Leadership

Presented by the Northwest School Division Leadership Academy

“Leaders are the lifeblood of small town communities.”

Leadership opportunities within urban communities are plentiful, helping teach youth the skills that they need to succeed in life. In rural communities, these leading possibilities are much harder to find. The essential skills that youth learn from leadership training include relationship building, public speaking skills, developing an open-minded worldview, among many others.  One of the prominent topics that was at the forefront of this session delved into the difference between leadership in urban communities and leadership in rural communities, and how the lack of leadership training programs can affect youth in rural areas.

When it comes to the difference between rural and urban leadership, it often comes down to the size of the group. Urban group end to be larger, while rural groups are often smaller. One of the student representatives of the NSDLA explained that differing group sizes have both positive and negative effects on the style of leadership that will be utilized. In a large group, there is a wider variety of opinions, thought, cultures, etc., where as in a smaller group there is often less differing backgrounds; however, the larger the group the more difficult it is to get every members voice heard. This becomes increasingly apparent when a group of key members begin to speak repeatedly, which in and of itself is not a negative concept, however this can lead to intimidated members who are now unable to work up the courage to share their own opinions. Another positive of smaller groups comes from the deeper relationships and connections that are being built between the members, paving the way for deeper and more effective discussions.

When it comes down to the main themes of this conference as a whole, it is apparent that creating opportunities for leadership, learning, and growth in rural communities is a core concern. In this session the student representatives shared some stories of youth who participated in one the programs that is currently available in eleven different rural schools and communities: the Northwest School Division Leadership Academy. This rare opportunity for rural youth to learn and grow shows the benefits of leadership training in rural communities in a very effective manner. One of the speakers shared the story of a student that was enrolled in this program that looked out at his community and noticed a major lack of communication. This led him to create a Facebook page that is nearly used by the whole town as a way to inform everybody of the happenings in the community, as well as make the voices of the citizens heard.

Now imagine what would happen if these opportunities were provided to all rural youth? If the support and learning that is available to the WSDLA students could be utilized at more schools, than the ideas generated by these new, fresh-minded leaders can pave the way for sustainable solutions to many prominent issues; however, making these opportunities is up to us.

By ZACHARY DIGOUT

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