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News Leadership challenge

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Capstone class works with students at Newark Charter School

​UD students work with teens at Newark Charter School to design and implement a leadership event.

Seniors in the University of Delaware’s organizational and community leadership program spent spring semester this year working with students at Newark Charter Junior/Senior High School to help them develop their own leadership skills.

UD students in the senior capstone course, LEAD 490, took on the challenge of proving not only what they know, but also that they know what to do. During the semester, the class coached leadership skills to 10th-graders enrolled in the charter school’s Global Studies Leadership Academy and introduced the challenges and fun of leadership to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

The project was developed through a partnership between Karen Stein, associate professor and program director of UD’s organizational and community leadership (OCL) major, and Lisa Westerfield, Newark Charter’s global contexts for leadership pathway teacher and curriculum developer.

Westerfield opened her leadership classroom once a week to the OCL seniors, who had the triple challenge of designing the coaching experience, supplementing but not duplicating Westerfield’s leadership curriculum and learning how to relate “college-level” leadership knowledge to 10th-graders.

In addition to acting as leadership coaches, the OCL students were challenged to productively engage the 10th-graders as equal partners in the collaborative process of designing and implementing a leadership event for all of the school’s sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

Adding to the challenge was that attending the event, scheduled for a Saturday morning in May, would be entirely voluntary.

“Leadership is about inspiring a common vision, but you can’t stop there,” Stein explained to her students. “It’s one thing to have people say they support something; it’s quite another leadership challenge, and it takes hard work, to inspire people to actually participate and personally engage in that vision.”

The result was LEADAPALOOZA 3.0 with the theme of “Intergalactic Leadership.” OCL students are encouraged, throughout their curriculum, to be innovative and creative, Stein said, and those skills were put to use as they invented activities such as Space Storm, Toxic Slime Escape, Crash Landing and Intergalactic Dance to teach the leadership concepts of collaboration, divergent thinking, innovation and decision-making.

Participants described the game-filled LEADAPALOOZA as a resounding success. For OCL senior Morgan Gott, “It was awesome to hear that some of the students would come back next year.”

Noting the high energy throughout the day, Sarah Kate Davidson-Catalano, also an OCL senior, said the event “was a chance not only to prove to myself that I can apply my studies, but an opportunity to excite young students about the importance of leadership.”

The semester-long experience was a success for the 10th-graders as well, Westerfield said.

“The chance for [Newark Charter High School] students to participate, help to design and implement a large endeavor such as a leadership conference has enabled them to move far beyond most students’ experiences in other schools,” she said.

The 10th-graders themselves said they recognized the value of the experience to their own growth as leaders.

“Working with the college students and hearing their thoughts and ideas allowed me to be more open-minded,” Josh Nicholson said.

His fellow student Maggie Blake said LEADAPALOOZA taught her “how to stand up and take action, even when in difficult situations I hadn’t experienced before.”

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Seniors in UD's organizational and community leadership program spent spring semester coaching students at Newark Charter School on their own leadership skills.

​Seniors in UD's organizational and community leadership program helped Newark Charter School students develop their own leadership skills.

6/23/2017
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Leadership challenge