Students develop leadership skills


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The student groups present a hand-drawn car as they explain the parts of the car they would be (engine, steering, wheel, etc) at the Austin Company.

Amrithaa Ashok Kumar, Guest Writer

During mid-December, a total of 16 students honed their leadership skills at the Chamber Leadership Academy (CLA), a program introduced by the non-profit parent organization Effective Leadership Academy.

These students were nominated by their respective teachers for the cohort where they connect with leaders from diverse industries including STEM, Government, Healthcare, Philanthropy, and Entrepreneurship.

Junior Lauren Peugeot enjoys partaking in the cohort. She said, “We met at The Austin Company and listened to the talented CLA staff teach us about soft skills and leading with different personalities. Then we partook in various fun activities like naming the part of the car that we would be, planning our ideal day, and identifying our personality.”

The core aspect of CLA is interacting with the leaders in major industries. Peugeot said, “Panelists from The Austin Company came in to share their inspirational stories and we were able to ask questions.”

Senior Mary Jo Baetzold relishes listening to the panelists’ stories most of all. She said, “They have these huge job titles but at the end of the day they are down-to-earth people. So, it is really interesting to hear their stories and feel inspired – that is pretty much the root of this program, it is to motivate students to be leaders of the future world.”

Peugeot is always looking forward to hands-on activities. She said, “In the recent session, we got to plan our perfect day which was my favorite activity. It combined fun and learning to tell each group what personality they were. Not only did we effectively communicate within groups, but we subconsciously learned a real lesson on how to thrive in our individual personalities.”

Peugeot says the activities created a positive and enthusiasm-filled environment. “I like that CLA is very interactive. All of the activities we do benefit every student in the room and it allows students to be comfortable while learning to grow and have fun,” she said.

Kaye Wolfinger, community relations coordinator staff at Effective Leadership Academy, is keen to work with the group of students from Mayfield. She said, “They are an exceptionally strong group of leaders. Only two sessions have gone by, and I can see it already. It is also unique in that we have freshmen through seniors which brings a distinguished perspective for both participants and coordinators.”

Peugeot recounts how each session follows an organized format. She said, “First, we gather at a business or within the school and have lessons from the talented staff. Then, we participate in games to benefit our social and soft skills. Finally, panelists from the company are hosted to come and share their stories.”

Each lesson reflects the CLA motto to develop each individual’s valuable asset that is themselves. Wolfinger said, “The goal of the lectures is to help students be strong leaders with a primary focus on soft skills — so knowing how to properly introduce yourself, creating a good first impression, public speaking, being self-aware, and presenting oneself. Moreover, leadership begins from within: so there is a unique focus on social emotional skills as well.”

Baetzold says CLA has contributed positively to her personal growth. She said, “A lot of times during the school year I go on autopilot, often forgetting to take a second to step back and evaluate how I am doing as an individual and a leader. CLA motivates me to keep going and be the leader I aspire to be.”

Wolfinger thinks that preparing students for the real-world lies at the heart of the program. She said, “I think one of the core values of CLA is to prepare students to be critical thinkers and open-minded for the 21st century careers that will be coming. The jobs for students of this generation do not exist right now, therefore students are going to be inventing jobs.”

As Baetzold will be transitioning to college life next year, she believes that CLA energizes her to be prepared. She said, “Although panelists come from completely different fields, one thing all have in common is hardships and they all persevered to get through them. My personal take away from CLA is to keep my face no matter what I go through – this mindset will be really helpful as I step into the college sphere next year.”

According to Wolfinger, Chamber Leadership Academy was founded by Flo Brett almost 15 years ago to teach teenagers soft skills and leadership skills. She said, “CLA flowered out of that to help students create connections with leaders in their communities.”

Baetzold specifies that the program is integrated into regular days. She said, “We meet five times during the school year and it takes up about half to two-thirds of the school day.”

Students will be meeting again on Jan. 17, 2023 for the third session, with a focus on Health and Wellness. Then, the group will meet again in February and March to explore Education and Entrepreneurship, respectively.