At our camp, our Leader In Training (LIT) program has transformed into something that really impacts the lives of our 15-year-olds. It’s a full immersion program, tight-knit…family-like. The program gets teens to become more service-minded, from community projects to helping their peers. We also offer a Waterfront Lifeguarding course for any LIT interested, as well as a CPR certification. We emphasize in the program that leadership means putting others before yourself, and that a strong moral compass is crucial if you want to inspire greatness in others…That sometimes you may get tired of being a leader, but you can’t take the “role model” shirt off once you put it on, or you’ll lose the respect of those following you…That people look up to you as a leader because of your character, not because of those awesome Abercrombie jeans.
Success can be hard to measure when working to better others’ lives, as many people lose contact once they leave their experience with us, and we’re left to wonder – how is so-and-so doing? Are they still on the right path to a good education? A fit and healthy life? To becoming an outstanding community member?
Our executive came into the office this morning and shared a great story, one of those pick-me-ups that starts the day off right. He has been bringing his daughters to swim at Indian Valley’s wonderful new aquatic center. While he sat on the bleachers, watching his girls learn and practice the important skill of swimming independently, a young lifeguard approached him…
“Tony, my name is Kevin. And you may not remember me, but I was in the LIT program in 2010.” The young man went on to express his gratitude for everything the program taught him. He is now guarding 20+ hours a week, on top of his high school education. In the summer, he switches venues and works as a guard at the local town beach, providing a safe and fun environment for kids, and yet another opportunity for the local youth to learn how to swim. Kevin went on to cite the LIT program for helping him to become driven to work within his community in a way that helps others…and he was most appreciative that he was able to get his certification to allow him to have such a job. He shared with Tony that he is currently applying to colleges, and is looking forward to extending his education, and becoming an active member of a new community.
Our executive has always said that the primary role of a leader is to foster and develop more leaders. As I thought about Kevin’s story, and put aside the warm-fuzzies it gave me, I really was able to reflect on the magnitude of the work that we do as a YMCA…and the potential for more. Kevin was truly impacted by our leadership program, which I can only assume is due to the emphasis of values and integrity, and the program’s staff, who are skilled at leadership by example. Our teens look up to their directors, and aspire to be like them…to be solid, good individuals. And now, Kevin is bringing the skills and character that he developed with us to another YMCA, and into his community.
We can acheive so much by walking the walk – not just talking about the keys to leadership, but truly incorporating them into EVERY interaction we face – with co-workers, members, family, friends…even the general public. We need to cross check every action or conversation we engage in with the values and areas of focus we preach. Just by showing the character that we have as YMCA professionals and affiliates, others will be drawn in…bound to ask questions and engage in a conversation, simply because we truly care. And as we reach out to more people and show our real character, we’ll learn more about those around us. We’ll learn how to better help them, and how to connect them with the resources – and people – that are sure to enrich their lives. And soon enough, we’ll find ourselves facing people like Kevin on a regular basis, and we will feel confident that so-and-so is doing great…still living a happy, healthy life, thanks to the impact we made.
YMCA Camp Woodstock