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posted: 5/4/2017 6:00 AM

Naperville teen launches leadership camp for kids

Naperville teen launches summer leadership camp for younger kids

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  • Naperville Central High School junior Ashima Agarwal, left, is launching a summer leadership camp for kids taught by teens and a couple of adults. The camp aims to help kids learn that leadership is about forming a positive mindset and helping others, Ashima says.

      Naperville Central High School junior Ashima Agarwal, left, is launching a summer leadership camp for kids taught by teens and a couple of adults. The camp aims to help kids learn that leadership is about forming a positive mindset and helping others, Ashima says.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Teens will teach younger kids during the first IWMI Leadership Camp this summer at Naperville Central High School. Teen instructors include Ashima Agarwal, camp director and owner, and teen teaching assistants Isabelle Lindblade, Brooke Buchanan, Alison Ware and Peter Mullin. Teen teaching assistant Micah Hill and co-teachers Suzanne Hamilton, Enrique Balcazar and Cristian Balcazar are not pictured.

      Teens will teach younger kids during the first IWMI Leadership Camp this summer at Naperville Central High School. Teen instructors include Ashima Agarwal, camp director and owner, and teen teaching assistants Isabelle Lindblade, Brooke Buchanan, Alison Ware and Peter Mullin. Teen teaching assistant Micah Hill and co-teachers Suzanne Hamilton, Enrique Balcazar and Cristian Balcazar are not pictured.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • The acronym in the new IWMI Leadership Camp stands for two phrases with opposite meanings at once: "I will make it," and "I won't make it." Camp leaders say they want to help kids ages 7-12 learn the power of a positive mindset and learning to believe "I will make it."

      The acronym in the new IWMI Leadership Camp stands for two phrases with opposite meanings at once: "I will make it," and "I won't make it." Camp leaders say they want to help kids ages 7-12 learn the power of a positive mindset and learning to believe "I will make it."
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
 

"I will make it." "I won't make it."

These opposing statements double up in the name of a new leadership camp for kids that's scheduled to take place this summer at Naperville Central High School.

Led by Central junior Ashima Agarwal, six of her teenage friends and two adult co-teachers, the IWMI Leadership Camp aims to give kids ages 7-12 the chance to learn early in life what it means to take charge.

Ashima and her fellow teen teachers say they've discovered what leadership means along the way, but wish they'd gained the skills to take positive action even earlier in life.

"We're giving kids what we would have wanted when we were younger," Ashima said -- namely, the knowledge to believe "I will make it" instead of "I won't."

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day for a week, participating kids will hear leadership lessons developed by the teen teachers, play a game or activity and have a snack.

It won't be a typical fun-in-the-sun type of summer camp because it will help younger kids prepare for their future in school, sports, clubs and charitable work, says teen teaching assistant Alison Ware, also a Naperville Central junior.

"Most (camps) are just focused on having fun and relaxing," Alison said, "but this is focused on growing yourself and your person."

Ashima said she got the idea to start the camp from two leadership opportunities that shaped her goals: the Tony Robbins Global Youth Leadership Summit, which takes place yearly in California, and Operation Snowball, a Naperville program led by 360 Youth Services that promotes a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle.

"To me, leadership is the ability to help others realize their potential and having a positive impact in your community, on yourself and others around you," Ashima said. "It's not bossing people around and getting things done. It's creating a positive chain reaction."

To develop the camp, Ashima already has taken the lead.

She's developed a WordPress website, gained her school's permission to use two Spanish classrooms for three weeks during the summer, secured insurance, posted fliers to promote the program and began the legal workings to get IWMI Leadership Camp certified as a nonprofit organization.

It's a lot of work for a three-sport athlete and political debate organization member, but Ashima says it will be worth the effort once she and her peers begin influencing younger students. Her teen teaching assistants agree.

"I'm really looking forward to the changes that I'm going to see in kids," teen teacher Isabelle Lindblade said.

The camp's first week, June 12-16, will be for students entering second and third grades. Its second week, June 19-23, will be for incoming fourth- and fifth-graders. The camp will wrap up with sessions for its oldest students, those entering grades six and seven.

Ashima says teachers will sneak in leadership lessons through activities as classic as repeated rounds of sharks and minnows. In the simple game, kids designated as "minnows" try to run across a space without getting caught by other kids classified as "sharks."

During the first round, Ashima says instructors will tell kids to play as if they're lethargic, tired and unwilling to do anything. Second round instructions will be the opposite: "Go at it. Have fun. Do whatever makes you happy," Ashima says.

Afterward, teen teachers will lead a group discussion about the difference between the two rounds and how the approach shaped what happened.

The lesson here: "Your attitude is what makes or breaks the situation," Ashima says.

Students won't always be in the same classroom each day, and there will be surprises along the way, all to help would-be young leaders learn "how to be a little bit uncomfortable."

Registration is open until Tuesday, May 30, and the camp costs $213 per participant to cover the cost of space, snacks and instructors. Adults Suzanne Hamilton, an Operation Snowball board member, and Enrique Balcazar, a California leadership coach and business owner, will teach and supervise the program, all in an effort to help kids proactively shape their futures.

"Leadership helps you become a more rounded person," teen teaching assistant Peter Mullin said. "I would have wanted that in my life when I was younger."

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