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Youth learn a lesson in leadership

June 25, 2002|By STEFANIE GREENBERG, Staff Writer

A long journey culminated June 17 for some youths with Imperial County Office of Education's Academic & Employment Services.

As they sat together in Asadero Jalisco in El Centro reminiscing about the success of a "park party" for children from the Betty Jo McNeece Receiving Home and Casa Villanueva women's shelter, all the work and dedication required for their program was overwhelmingly agreed upon to have been worth it.

These youths, participants in ICOE/AES's Prudential Youth Leadership Institute, spent much of their free time in an effort to help others and themselves.

Offered around the nation to youths between the ages of 14-21, the program features a curriculum developed by the Center of Creative Leadership that includes 30 hours of classroom instruction with segments on community analysis, goal-setting, team-building, project-planning, decision-making and other leadership dynamics. Students also learn through hands-on field exercises and a community service project conducted by the participants.

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"The mission of the institute is ultimately to create stronger communities and a stronger nation by giving as many young people as possible the ability and desire to make meaningful, lifelong contributions to their communities," a press release states.

This pioneering group of 14 students from Brawley, Calexico, Central and Holtville high schools and Imperial Valley College started their journey in mid-March and completed their community service project, the park party, June 15.

"After undergoing several training sessions the students planned their own community service project applying the skills they learned in the classroom. The project was completely thought out and planned by students," a press release states.

To prepare for the community service project the group raised money by staging a car wash and solicited food donations from Max Foods and Vons in El Centro. The youths purchased school supplies and toys to fill gift bags for the children at the event.

"On the day of the event the group provided the children with a light breakfast, lunch and a day of fun at the park. AES youth took this opportunity to converse with the children and show them that there are people in this world who care about them. The students supervised the children, ages 2-11, who played kickball, made posters of what they want to be when they grow up; the younger ones blew bubbles or colored," a press release states.

The children's mothers also received gift bags.

"They really enjoyed it," said Freddy Gomez. "We could tell."

The youths were presented certificates of accomplishment by John Anderson, Imperial County superintendent of schools, and Efrain Silva, Workforce Investment Board executive director.

Even though these teens have finished training, some are trying to stay with the program as volunteer co-facilitators next year. And they encourage others interested to enter the program.

"Just do it," said Karina Ramirez. "It's a good idea."

Ivan Ramirez added the program "helps your resume" and allows students to gain more skills.

And of course, he added, it doesn't hurt to have some money.

The students who successfully completed the Prudential Youth Leadership Institute are as follows:

· Sergio Almada, Jacqueline Mendoza, Yael Verduzco and Jesus Carlos Villegas, all of Calexico; Deisy Aragon, Jaqueline Ramirez, both of Holtville; Freddy Gomez, Jonathan Martinez, Ivan Ramirez, Karina Ramirez and Diana Sandoval, all of El Centro; and Carolina Venegas and Andro Verdugo, both of Brawley.

>> Anyone interested in applying for next year's program may call Peter Ramirez at 312-6441.

>> The Prudential Youth Leadership Institute was conceived by the Prudential Insurance Company of America as part of a broad initiative to promote community involvement among American teen-agers.

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