EASTERN WAKE COUNTY — As a junior at East Wake High School, Eliza Dutcher is a leader in her marching band section. It’s a job that is not always so easy. But after attending a camp with other teens who are in similar positions as Dutcher, she thinks she now has what it takes to be a better school leader.
“I learned that communication is important, and that there are many different aspects to being a leader,” she said. Dutcher, and four other juniors – Anna Chambers, Pablo Clarke, Anna Kate Whitfield and Sierra Young – all from East Wake High, recently returned from the annual Rotary Youth Leadership Award camp, held this year at Camp Kanata, outside Wake Forest. The title of the camp is a bit of a misnomer, since no awards are actually handed out. “The award is in going, and in being selected to attend,” said John Thomas with the Wendell Rotary Club. Each year, a group of East Wake High juniors are chosen to attend after an application and interview process.
The purpose of the camp is “to help the community grow future leaders,” said Thomas, explaining that the club looks for students who demonstrate potential leadership abilities. This year, the Zebulon and Wendell Rotary Clubs teamed up and sent the five students to the camp. For Dutcher, the experience made a strong impact. “They split us up when we got there so we were in cabins and in groups with people we did not know. That was tough at first but in the end, we saw how it was for the better.” She said they learned how to reach out to students who, though they made have leadership potential, struggle to overcome their shyness about using it. “It helped me to understand how I can help introverts.”
Discovering who the introverts and extroverts were came early in the camp, as students took the Meyers-Briggs personality test.
Young said the test was an eye-opener for her.
“I’d never even heard of such a thing.,” Young said. “But I thought it was interesting how you could put (personalities) into words and analyze them. It was cool to read your profile. I think that helps us, too, to understand how other people think.”
Junior Anna Kate Whitfield said she particularly enjoyed the team-building activities, such as “climbing the alpine tower.” Students didn’t climb with their team, she explained, but they had to depend on their teammates for directions. “You had to trust them and use them for support.”
Campers also learned that leadership doesn’t necessarily mean standing out front.
“We learned that sometimes, a leader needs to be a follower, and how you learn when to step back and recognize that. And we learned about the ‘platinum rule – to treat others like they would want to be treated.’ ”
And though Anna Chambers leads her HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America) Club at East Wake High, she is not always the extrovert. “I liked the camp because it forced me to connect to the other people there. They put me in a group where I didn’t know anyone. I am normally kind of quiet and shy so it forced me step up.” She said the group discussed how they can “help the students” at their schools who normally do not speak up. She could relate to that. “We learned that sometimes, you have to go one-on-one with those students and that’s OK because they taught us there are different leaders for different situations.”
The experience was so rewarding, some would like to attend next year as a counselor. “I have signed up to the get the application so we’ll see. I think it would nice to go back,” said Whitfield.
The students also had the chance to make new friends beyond the walls of their own high school. “I met several girls from Chapel Hill and a girl from Cary. We had more in common than I thought,” Young said.
Like leadership potential.