CHANNAHON – Area teens are learning what it takes to be a leader during Teen Leadership Camp at Channahon Park District this summer.
“A leader is someone you can look up to and trust,” 13-year-old Alfredo Martinez of Minooka said Tuesday. “Leaders show you the right path.”
Martinez said a leader can be any age, and he wants to be a good leader for his little sisters.
Jackie O’Hara, recreation coordinator with Channahon Park District, said the camp was created to empower teens and show them examples of leadership.
The camp, in its second week, is focusing on leadership qualities while zeroing in on local heroes.
“Some heroes work behind a desk, others are out in the community like firefighters,” O’Hara said to the teens.
The program is sponsored by a donation from the Channahon-Minooka Rotary Club.
“The kids who are here are rather shy and quiet,” O’Hara said. “But they are working as a team and learning how to become leaders.”
Kelly Hutten, 13, of Minooka and the only girl in the group, said her mom told her about the program and she was excited to have the opportunity to build better leadership skills as well as gain more self-confidence.
“Learning to be a leader at any age is good. If you learn it when you are young, as you grow older, you’ll already know how,” Hutten said. “It’s important to know how to be a leader for the rest of your life.”
Leadership skills the teens are learning by meeting local community members are being practiced as the group works together on a service project that will allow them to help a local organization of their choice.
As part of the program, the group volunteered June 18 at Ready Set Ride Therapeutic Recreation Facility in Plainfield, where it had the opportunity to meet and groom the horses used for therapeutic horseback riding.
Thirteen-year-old Salvatore Cesario, of Channahon, said he enjoyed working at the recreation facility and he learned volunteering was easier than it seemed.
“I learned choosing to do something to help is easier than I thought,” he said. “I also learned help is always welcome and needed, even the small things help.”
Cesario already considers himself a leader and he often is called upon by his peers to lead a presentation at school when he works in a group. Camp is not only reinforcing those skills, but teaching him new ones.
Connor McKay, 13, of Channahon, just joined the group this week, after returning from a mission trip with his church last week.
He said the mission trip helped him to make friends with people from other churches while working with people with disabilities, which ties into the team-building lessons he is getting at leadership camp.
“We need leaders,” he said. “If we have leaders, those that don’t want to be leaders have someone to look up to.”
The program will continue Tuesdays and Wednesdays through July 23.
Tuesdays are being spent at the Arrowhead Community Center, and each Wednesday the campers will go to a different nonprofit organization to volunteer and meet with the organization’s director.
When the teens are finished with camp, they will have completed 84 hours of community service and be presented with a letter identifying the service.