Learning about leadership

Juniors and seniors from three area high schools invaded Superior Middle School Wednesday for a leadership mission. Their message was for the sixth grade class.

Juniors and seniors from three area high schools invaded Superior Middle School Wednesday for a leadership mission. Their message was for the sixth grade class.

High school students split into small groups throughout the school to lead classrooms in activities to help kids determine their personality traits.

The high school students are from the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce Youth Leadership program. They used skills learned through the program to design and lead sixth graders for Wednesday's Teen Issues Day, said Matt Bombich, Superior High School senior.

High school students throughout Douglas County are eligible to participate in the program. This year, the chamber received 59 applications and accepted 37 sophomores to join the 25 juniors returning to the program in 2007-2008.

The program teaches students about the Superior community and leadership. It's entering its seventh year.


In June, the program receives a Promising Practice Award from the Wisconsin PK-12 Leadership Council for providing opportunities for area youth.

Seniors in the program have spent the year volunteering at various organizations throughout Douglas County. They find the program's lessons memorable for more than just teaching sixth graders, Bombich said.

Leadership training has been instrumental in shaping Bombich's high school career, he said.

It's given him the courage and opportunity to speak in front of children, the Chamber of Commerce, the school board and the United Way.

Those are lessons he'll take with him wherever he ends up, Bombich said.

Students are in the leadership program for two years. Junior year -- the first year of the program -- focuses on team building, leadership training, business tours and the Superior community.

Students tour local businesses big and small to see what goes on behind the scenes. They may see these businesses and hear about them, but they don't understand what goes into running them, said Dave Minor, chamber president. Through Youth Leadership they learn what sort of professions are involved in running the businesses they visit. Junior year gives leadership members an idea about what businesses and jobs available in the county, he said.

The program gives students an opportunity to learn about the working community they could never get in school, Bombich said.


Leadership members are taken out of school one day a month to participate in training. Other times they are out of school to lead training for other students.

The leadership program is a big time commitment from both the schools and the students, Minor said.

During the senior or second year, it's the students' turn to give. Seniors lead in the program by identifying groups within the community that could benefit from volunteering. Seniors rang bells for the Salvation Army and volunteered with the United Way this winter.

Part of being a member of a community is giving back time, talent and treasures; this is an important lesson for students to learn, Minor said.

Starting last year, the seniors are given $2,000 to donate to an organization in the community.

This year's seniors took the donation a step further. They doubled the amount through a request to the United Way. They are still in the process of determining where to donate the $4,000.

"No matter where we end up, we'll know how to give back," Bombich said.

Both sides of the program are important. Junior year students see the leadership in the county and how their communities work. Senior year they get a chance to get involved, he said.


Between tours, leadership training and volunteering, Students find time for some fun.

Junior year students make a trip to Disney World to attend the Disney Institute's leadership training. Students get a look at Disney World and Animal Kingdom behind the scenes and have two days of leadership training.

"They really get to learn leadership traits from one of the top companies in the world," Minor said. "Just about any job you can imagine Disney has at one level or another."

During their senior year, students who can afford it have a chance to go to Europe during spring break to see how communities are run elsewhere in the world.

The Europe trip teaches independence and appreciation for family, said senior Garrett Vollmer.

The lessons learned through each part of the program will be useful in the future. Independence will be valuable to seniors going off to college in fall, he said.

"I think it's one of the best things I could have done as a students and a person," Vollmer said.

The chamber had its Excellence in Education banquet Friday. The banquet inducts sophomores to the program, recognizes returning juniors and graduates seniors from the program.


Students who have gone through the program know what their strengths and weaknesses are as a leader. The program teaches a person about himself, Vollmer said.

"No matter where you go, what you learn here is transferable elsewhere," Minor said. "What you take out of here you're going to have for the rest of (your) life."

Anna Kurth covers education. Call her at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail .

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