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By JEN FARNSWORTH
The idea of teaching leadership skills is one The League of Woman Voters of Saratoga County is taking directly into the schools. Kristin Overholt, coordinator for LeaderSpark, a six week course for area high school students hosted by the League said it takes a special person to be a true leader and reaching out to those students who possess these qualities has proved to be worthwhile.
Three students from Ballston Spa High School were chosen to take part in the six week course. Overholt said the objective is to offer a unique leadership-training program to sophomores and juniors. This program provides skill-building, personal development and organizational leadership training to students from a wide variety of cultural and economic backgrounds, experiences and interests.
“We want to give students the opportunity to see what they can do with leadership skills,” said Overholt.
Ballston Spa High School students Emiliee Conroe, Jacob Devasagayam, and Brian Parsons were chosen to participate. The students were asked to develop an idea for a community service project, including mapping out the logistics of their idea.
Conroe, a sixteen-year old sophomore, said over the six weeks, the group met in Saratoga and were asked to sit with other students from around the region. She said they would discuss certain themes such as “dealing with conflict,” something every leader will face. She said they focused on other themes like working with groups, planning projects, and presenting yourself.
“I learned what the qualities of a leader are, how to become and stay a good leader, how to run a meeting, how to use the media to my advantage, how to handle an argument, and how to create an action plan. Most importantly, LeaderSpark taught me how to apply all of these skills to my actual life outside of the building doors,” said Conroe.
Conroe said many of the scenarios presented included how to solve real life problems.
“The topics were very relevant to things that would happen in our lives, and I’ve run into many situations just since the program has ended that I have easily been able to handle because of this program,” said Conroe.
Conroe has even started a club in school that will install and take care of a fish tank in the main lobby after being inspired by the program.
“This will not only improve the first impression of the school atmosphere but also could, in the future, be tied into classes already present in our school. Without LeaderSpark, we would never have had the resources and knowledge available to do this. I will continue going forth in my everyday life using the things I learned at LeaderSpark to handle things such as a conflict in a club or just organizing and budgeting time on a project due in a class. The lessons LeaderSpark has taught me have not just disappeared and gone to waste, they still resonate in my mind and continue to prove useful in my life in actual situations,” said Conroe.
Parsons, also a junior echoed Conroe’s experience saying he learned about the different types of leadership, how to have a productive group interaction, interviewing for jobs and colleges, and how to start programs that could benefit the community. Along with Devasagayam and Conroe, Pasron is also working on the aquarium project. He added that another goal of the club is to increase the exposure to local marine wildlife by possibly filling the tank with local lake fish or fauna.
“Our LeaderSpark experience is directly responsible for this effort,” said Parsons.
Now in it’s sixth year, Overholt said the program could not happen without the help of community volunteers including many employees and agents from State Farm, two Skidmore College students, and volunteers from Leadership Saratoga.
“Never tell these kids they can’t, because trust me they sure can,” said Overholt.