To some teenagers, a leader is someone who talks the loudest or collects the most votes. But a group of Dallas sophomores participating in the Youth Leadership Dallas is learning that a key ingredient of leadership is helping others.

Youth Leadership Dallas is a teen leadership development program sponsored by the Volunteer Center of Dallas County. Through the program, sophomores from 19 Dallas high schools, including Bryan Adams and Woodrow Wilson, learn about their City and how to develop leadership skills through volunteering.

The culturally diverse group also learns to affirm its common qualities and differences. The 340 students meet seven times during the school year for day-long activities.

“Youth Leadership allows students to hone their leadership skills and develop an appreciation of how they can help others,” says Cathy Doyle, director of the program.

“We hope that this will open their eyes to the difference they can make as volunteers in their community.”

Students are selected for the program each fall based on leadership potential, commitment to attend and a minimum “C” grade average.

This year, the students’ first experience was a day at the “Ropes Course” at Willow Creek Hospital. They were put in teams and asked to complete activities such as climbing over a 10-foot wall with no ropes and crossing an invisible sea of alligators using only one pair of “magic sneakers.”

The Ropes Course was a favorite activity of Raegan Payne, a sophomore at Woodrow.

“We had to work together to get the job done,” Payne says. “We were able to do it because everyone was so cooperative.”

Another session featured a mock City Council meeting at Dallas City Hall. Some students played the role of City Council members, and others portrayed members of special interest groups. The “city council” met to discuss youth violence and what could be done to control it.

As they discussed the issue, the students learned that leadership includes cooperation and compromise.

“Leadership is not all yelling and giving orders,” Payne says. “It’s everybody working together.

In addition to attending sessions, each participating school is asked to organize a volunteer project. Woodrow students took blind children on several field trips, and Bryan Adams students plan to plant trees on their campus.

“I can make a difference in my community,” says Fred Flores, a Bryan Adams student. “I don’t have to wait for someone else. I can start helping now.”


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