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Students develop leadership skills, future plans at UGA programs

The University of Georgia provides opportunities for young people to develop leadership skills and plan for the future through pre-collegiate programs.

For one young person, attending the Embark Summer Precollegiate Program at the University of Georgia completely changed how they view their future.

“(The program) helped me see what I wanted in life with what I want to do,” said the youth, who is currently in foster care and attended the UGA program in June.

The Embark Summer Precollegiate Program, which provides leadership skills development and information about postsecondary education to youth in foster care, is one of a host of summer leadership programs facilitated by the UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

Institute for Leadership Development faculty guide the students in leadership development activities in and out of the classroom.

During the Embark summer program, UGA Fanning Institute faculty and staff work with the participants on developing leadership skills to help them set goals for themselves and work effectively with others, while also taking them to classes and facilities on campus and elsewhere to learn about options they have after graduating high school.

“(My goals) might be easier to reach than I thought,” said another Embark program participant about what she learned from the program.

These programs at UGA reach a wide range of students.

For example, Athens-Clarke County high school students learned skills to develop as leaders and problem solvers by innovating answers to real-life challenges through learning leadership and human centered design skills at the InnovateU program at UGA in June.

InnovateU participants present their solutions to problems they face in their education.

The UGA Office of the President developed InnovateU in 2021 in partnership with the UGA Innovation District, Clarke County School District, UGA Fanning Institute, and other campus partners with support this year from Cox Enterprises.

“It was fun to work together and make a big solution out of everyone’s ideas,” said Amaya Martin, a rising 10th-grader at Clarke Central High School. “The program also helped me gain confidence and learn to be more outgoing even if I don’t know someone.”

Programs like this provide a great opportunity for students, said Paul Lee, a math teacher at Clarke Central High School.

“Leadership development is important because it reinforces what they are learning and helps foster community and collaboration,” Lee said.

At InnovateU and other UGA Fanning Institute summer programs, the students also have an opportunity to work alongside and build relationships with college student mentors.

InnovateU students connect with college student mentors throughout the program.

“I am planning to become a teacher, so I have learned a lot and seen the impact that teachers and mentors can have on young people,” said Isabelle Powers, who will graduate in December from UGA with a degree in elementary education. “The students had great ideas and want to make a difference. It was a fun experience.”

UGA also uses these programs to prepare students for their campus experience.

In partnership with the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences, UGA Fanning Institute faculty lead the Destination Dawgs Summer Leadership Institute.

This serves as a prerequisite for the Destination Dawgs program, housed within the College of Family and Consumer Sciences’ Institute on Human Development and Disability. Destination Dawgs offers participants a chance to prepare to transition to adulthood and independent living by auditing classes on campus, learning job skills and building a social network, all with the help of peer mentors.

At the summer institute, the students learn about leadership, communication and goal setting, while helping to introduce them to UGA prior to starting the Destination Dawgs program.

“This direct engagement with students is unique amongst inclusive postsecondary programs nationally and offers our project team a highly valued opportunity to get to know each individual applicant before the program,” said Carol Britton Laws, UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences professor. “Overall, the institute directly positively correlates with student success in the program following admission.”

Athens-Clarke County high school students learned skills to develop as leaders and problem solvers by innovating answers to real-life challenges through learning leadership and human centered design skills at the InnovateU program at UGA in June.

Programs such as these create a well-rounded experience for students transitioning beyond high school, said Matt Bishop, UGA Fanning Institute director.

“Incorporating leadership development into college preparedness and youth programming helps ensure that young people have all of the needed tools to succeed not just academically, but in their communities and future workplaces,” Bishop said.

For more information on youth leadership development, click here.

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