Opinion

Sixth-grade leadership tiptoes through the tulips | Voices for Health

From left, Megan Wilson, Kera Kovats, Kyle Jangard, Danil Sonjava, Taylor Turnbull, Kiara McLaughlin (adult leader), Carlos Jimenez, Allie Galt and Griffen Oakes.  - Contributed photo
From left, Megan Wilson, Kera Kovats, Kyle Jangard, Danil Sonjava, Taylor Turnbull, Kiara McLaughlin (adult leader), Carlos Jimenez, Allie Galt and Griffen Oakes.
— image credit: Contributed photo

By KIARA MCLAUGHLIN

The Youth Leadership Initiative in Grade 6 is a local effort to commence local, state and national connections for youth in coalition work.

The Coalition for Anti-Drug Communities of America (CADCA) sponsors an annual National Youth Leadership Initiative in Washington, D.C. This week-long training in the capital is an opportunity for selected youth and their adult coalition advisers to come current with training and learn how to build their coalitions at home to effect community change.

Young coalition members learn the same principles that are taught at the National Coalition Academy for adults, but the curriculum is geared to be more engaging.

Our island’s sixth-grade team rallied to help prepare for DrumPowerment™ presenter, Kenya Masala, who came to the island in March. The youth leaders created posters and artwork to build enthusiasm in the elementary school, and used the school’s PA system to get their classmates ready for the big events.

The eight youth are from Debbie Taylor and Christy Putney’s homeroom classes. Ms. Taylor teaches fifth- and sixth-grade split class, and Ms. Putney teaches sixth grade. When given a list of qualities they admire in a leader, the students selected the following traits: imaginative, cooperative, inspiring and mature.

The youth gave feedback that they have learned better leadership skills, how to strategize and work together, and how to juggle the many activities and responsibilities that arise in our busy lives.

The team posed for a photo outside Friday Harbor Elementary School on April 14. The bright red tulips blooming around the sign are the fruits of “Plant the Promise,” a commemoration of Red Ribbon Week in October. The bulbs were planted in 2006 and 2007 by fifth-grade students at Friday Harbor Elementary School in cooperation with the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition, the Family Resource Center, and MarketPlace.

The tulips bloomed in April, reminding us of Alcohol Awareness Month and, as we all know, everyone is affected by substance abuse in one way or another.

We are proud of these eight youth who have given us their time and energy to become better leaders and to promote healthy choices. We also appreciate the extra time they spent at home getting caught up from their time out of class!

Margaret Mead was an American cultural anthropologist who was a featured writer and speaker in the mass media throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The following quote speaks to the importance of leadership: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

— Online: www.cadca.org/trainingevents/training_coalitions/national-youth-leadership-initiative

— Kiara McLaughlin is the youth leadership facilitator for the San Juan Island Prevention Coalition.

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