At our May monthly meeting, the First Star Greater Washington Academy learned about the importance of communication, leadership and teamwork.  Communication is key to letting others know what you think and to working in groups.  Working with our wonderful Deloitte volunteer staff and Kevin Wallace from EMBRACE the TEAM, we created an interactive workshop focused on communication and leadership. The students learned that if they did not communicate and work together, they would not achieve success.

Students arrived around 9:30 am and ate breakfast with mentors and volunteers, and updated mentors about their academics and relationships.  Everyone was excited to be reunited and have the chance to catch up.

The students broke into small groups to review vocabulary and study with FSGWA mentors, Deloitte volunteers and each other before the quizzes were handed out.  Once finished with both quizzes, students moved into smaller groups of two or three with a mentor at each table to begin the workshop.  Because Deloitte brought so many volunteers, we were able to provide a lot of one on one.

The Leadership workshop began with an explanation of ground rules. Then Kevin asked a series of questions that zeroed in on how each youth felt about their own communication and leadership skills.  Using a Google app, each youth was able to repond to questions using their phone and we could see the imediate response on a video screen.  It was interesting to see that others in the room felt fearful about taking charge or unsure of themselves.  This instant feedback sparked conversations that brought everyone into the moment and excited about the day’s actvities.

Afterwards, we arranged ourselves into small groups and did a series of activities that required us to move objects, ourselves, or arrange things in specific order all without the use of language.  Once we had completed each group was given a giant board made into a maze with holes drilled all over.  Each member grabbed a corner and we had to work togther to get a ball through thte maze without falling though the hole.  Everyone soon realized the importance of communication and the need to work together.

We continued through the day with many other activities that promoted communcation, leadership and team unity.  The youth also explored activites that involved problem solving skills and creativity.  In one, they had to create a bridge that could hold a full bottle of water with only 6 sticks, one newspaper section, and 3 feet of string.  It was amazing to see how vastly different each group attacked the problem and the solution each created.

We broke for lunch and birthday celebrations, then gathered around to provide feedback to Kevin about the day.  How did everyone feel about the workshop?  What did you like, or what would you like to see different in July when Kevin is brought back to run a four week course.  Everyone agreed that they had a blast with the hands-on activities and the interactive questionnaire.  One youth even suggested having the mentors and staff be a part of their own groups so that we could have friendly competition and easily integrate the new staff into our FSGWA community.

At the end of the day, we gathered our belongings and said our goodbyes before heading home around 3:00pm.  Everyone felt more confident about their own communication skills and even more excited about the Summer Program Leadership Course!  I can’t wait to see everyone again in June when we get to celebrate our wonderful senior’s highs school graduations and future plans at our Celebration Picnic and Graduation Ceremony, So proud of them all!!!

With warmth and compassion,
Brian Ritchey
Program Director