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Leadership Lake County Junior Leadership students complete beautification plan at McKinley Center

Lake County Junior Leadership students put months of planning and fundraising into action April 28 by completing the 2018 Community Impact Project to spruce up the McKinley Community Outreach Center in Willoughby.

Final completion of the project coincided with national Global Youth Service Day and included upgrades to the McKinley Center’s court, school/GED room and donation room.

The 2018 Community Impact Project was designed to teach Junior Leadership Program students how to plan, fundraise, and improve their communication skills needed to be part of a larger-scale team that completes a complex and multilayered action project to help their community.

“This is something that would not happen if they were not here, especially our courtyard,” said Sue Penicka, McKinley Center coordinator. “Our volunteers work on just keeping track of the donations that come in and sorting them and we don’t have time for the extra projects. It’s a real blessing for us. It’s an old building and needed sprucing up.”

Work on a Community Impact Project provides Junior Leadership Program students with valuable leadership skills they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

“For me, it’s helped me to be able to work with other people and to be able to use skills from each program and how to work with others well,” Alex Bihary, a Madison High School junior said in between paint brush strokes inside McKinley’s donation room. “I am able to present myself in a manner that is more professional than I have been able to before.”

North High School junior Grace Schafer enjoyed a sense of accomplishment and the camaraderie from working to raise money to purchase a new computer as part of the plan to spruce up the McKinley Center’s GED room.

“It definitely makes you feel better as a person because you’re doing something for people who didn’t have an opportunity to get their GED yet,” she said. “Now they will get their opportunity inside a room that looks nice and fresh and not run down, and that definitely makes me feel good.”

Junior Leadership is designed as a nine-month program for high school sophomores and juniors to acquire leadership skills and increase civic engagement. Students focus on 21st century skill development such as collaboration, critical thinking, communication, creativity, life and career skills, and information technology.

Junior Leadership participation speaks to the heart of Leadership Lake County’s mission to develop present and future leaders for civic, social and economic excellence.
The opportunity to engage students in authentic servant leadership ties this project to our mission, said Leadership Lake County CEO Jessie Baginski.

“Students learn to work cooperatively on a year-long project and celebrate successes each month through accountability and action reports,” Baginski said. “Lake County benefits as each successive class of Junior graduates take the lessons in civic, social and economic advancement with them to their campuses, workplaces and homes.

Concord Township Administrator Andy Rose is a 2015 Leadership Lake County graduate and serves as a coach for the Community Impact Project.

“It gives them a little taste of project management from start to finish and can be translated to projects they may work on 10 years from now, perhaps on a project with work,” Rose said. “The same basic principles apply and these are life lessons they can draw on from this experience.”
During program days, students are introduced to various sectors of the county including government, health and human services, business and recreation. The Community Impact Project requires development of leadership skills and service learning through a community service project requiring research, action, and reflection.

For these students, in particular, there is extensive introduction to careers in Lake County, and alumni mentors, along with learning the ability to plan, finance, and implement a project that directly affects their community.

The 2018 Community Impact Project began with a lot of moving parts with ultimately the McKinley Center as this year’s beneficiary. For example, Auburn Career Center students built 150 bird houses for Leadership Lake County and the proceeds were used for materials that the students purchased to make cosmetic improvements to the McKinley Center along with cleaning up and enhancing the courtyard.

In the past, Junior Leadership service projects have included a taxables drive for families in need through the Body of Christ and Prince of Peace churches; building the learning Gardens for Garfield Elementary complete with curriculum; Headlands Beach clean-up in partnership with the Alliance for the Great Lakes; a Health Fair Fun Run and Activity Day at Classic Park; and a multifaceted project for Project Hope for the Homeless that included a fence mural, benches and step stools, transition gift baskets and packed lunches.

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