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Leadership Geauga County educates on local history, builds community leaders

Jan 23, 2017 10:48AM ● Published by Today's Family

Students in the Leadership Geauga County Youth Program participate in monthly, topical class days that include on-site visits to local businesses.

By Deanna R. Adams

How much do you know about your community?  Participants of the Leadership Geauga County program know a lot.  That’s because this nonprofit organization’s mission is to encourage residents to be aware of its amenities, and train and produce leaders in the community.

The program seeks to enroll individuals who have a commitment to the Geauga County community and who are also interested in assuming greater responsibility for the future leadership of the county.  “Leadership isn’t necessarily about being at the top, it’s about creating positive change wherever you are within the organization,” says Melanie Scanlon, who took over as executive director last year.

“We’re in the twenty-first year of the adult program and it’s been so successful that in 2008, the former executive director went from part-time to full-time to pilot a similar program geared toward youth,” Scanlon says.  “We encourage students to take a more active role in their school and community, and most important, show them that there are lots of opportunities to have careers right in their hometown.”

The Leadership Geauga County Youth Program involves monthly meetings, held in various locations, that concentrate on leadership skills and topics related to the county.  There are also tours and presentations given by civic leaders.

“I love having the opportunity to meet new people in the Geauga community, which is exciting,” says Elise Spintzyk, 16, who started the program in October.  “I was also intrigued by the idea of being able to work with so many different people in the county, who I wouldn’t otherwise have had the ability to meet and work with.”

There are seven classes held from January through May and students are expected to attend each session, study various leadership styles, and explore topics on personal growth and community engagement.

“We had an overnight retreat in November where we did a lot of different activities as a group, and learned about different leadership skills,” says Spintzyk, who attends Hershey Montessori School.  “We took a tour of Geauga County with a local historian and learned about the different communities within the county and their history.”

Because of the needed expenses to run such a program, the organization receives funding through a grant from the Cleveland Foundation and Lake-Geauga Fund.  “We try to keep the cost as low as possible and can do that with support from Cleveland hospitals and UH Geauga Medical Center,” Scanlon says.  “We would not be able to do this without their financial support, and we’re so grateful.”

The cost is $400 for the complete course.  However, the organization does hold fundraisers and offers small scholarships for those who cannot afford it but really want to participate.
Students get breakfast, lunch, snacks and the bus ride there and back.  Graduates, like Stephen Blauch, agree that the program is well worth it.

“Leadership Geauga program made a noticeable impact on my social skills and potential as a leader,” says Blauch, now a senior at Chardon High, who graduated from the program last year.  “The conglomeration of such experiences left me better educated, and with an improved sense of the importance of my own leadership within my community.”

So far, the organization has graduated 150 students, and currently have 23 from seven different schools.  “We typically recruit from 10-12 schools, including private schools, Amish students, and home-schooled,” Scanlon adds.

“I was extremely impressed with how close each member of the program became to one another,” Blauch says.  “Everyone there was excited to learn and participate each and every day we met, which made the experience that much better.”

“The Health & Safety Day will take place on February 16, and the students will learn about the different job opportunities and careers in caregiving facilities, such as hospitals,” Scanlon says.  “Not everyone is a doctor or nurse.  There are so many other important workers in every aspect of service.”

Spintzyk looks forward to that particular class and others.  “We’ll have the opportunity to shadow at University Hospitals Geauga, plus a day exploring the agriculture in Geauga County, and a lot of other interesting themed outings to get us out into the community and working with people.”

“I’m blown away with the whole concept,” Scanlon says.  “It takes students away from the familiar and exposes them to the entire Geauga community, and gives them an opportunity to get to know students from other schools and parts of the county they didn’t know about.  They leave with an understanding of how their personal skills can impact their community, as well as acquire sharp connections with each other and their community.

“We’re very proud of the fact that many students enjoy it so much, they encourage siblings and friends to do it, too, which is great.”

Best thing is, she adds, that it’s not too late to apply.  “Anyone who’s a junior can apply,” Scanlon notes.  “Just go to our website.”

Leadership Geauga County is located at 103 South St., Suite 1, Chardon, OH 44024.  For more information, call 440-286-8115, or see www.leadershipgeauga.org.

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