Just the other day, four 9th grade students from Dwight Morrow High School in Englewood presented their leadership project to groups of 8th graders at the Janis E. Dismus School. Who better to teach teens preparing to enter high school about the myths and realities of what lies ahead for them.
Throughout their freshman year, four very determined and bright students, Antonella Bermeo, Mike Gallago, Isaiah Jones and Jahrael Smith, worked on leadership, team building and civic engagement with advisors Lynne Algrant and Debbie Emery from the Volunteer Center of Bergen County.
Each Friday, this group would meet for a period to look at community issues, their role in creating change and the development of what would become their focus project, a mentoring program to help the next freshman class prepare for the exciting but often overwhelming challenge of moving on to high school. Families, teachers and school staff certainly aid in this process. However, bringing students in who have just had this similar experience gave the 8th graders a chance to really get the student perspective first-hand. Antonella, Mike, Isaiah and Jahrael provided terrific insight into this transition through serious conversation and humor. This cleaver group of students even developed a unique and powerful philosophy for working smart, RIDDLE!!
Do your work
Everybody wants to feel important, valued and heard, and young people have so much to share and teach. Our programs for teens, modeled on our Bergen LEADS civic leadership program for adults, give students the knowledge and tools to analyze issues and develop fresh approaches that, perhaps, adult leaders may never have considered. These programs help students understand how things work and awaken interest in public service. They help to strengthen the community and build a network of connected, civically engaged young leaders, eager for a role in the future.