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The Inaugural Leadership Southern Maryland/LEAD 5K and 10K run and walk will be held on Sept. 14 at 8 a.m. Pre-registration of $25 for walkers and $30 for runners directly benefits the LSM and LEAD programs. Visit active.com and enter ‘LEAD – 5K/10K Walk/Run’ to participate.

For more information about Leadership Southern Maryland, call 240-725-5469 or e-mail info@leadershipsomd.org.

A diverse group of 31 high school students from Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties celebrated completion of LEAD 2014 on June 25, each walking away with leadership skills, new friends and memories.

For the fifth year, Leadership Southern Maryland and Maryland Leadership Workshops partnered to provide a four-day, three-night residential learning experience intended to strengthen skills such as project planning, group dynamics and diversity appreciation.

The 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade students were guided through group games and workshops designed to help them recognize and maximize their potential for becoming leaders within their schools and communities, while gaining or strengthening practical skills that will benefit them in future academic and career endeavors.

The MLW staff, which worked directly with the LEAD delegates, are young adults typically attending college or recent graduates and are frequently former leadership camp participants. Andrew Williams, 25, LEAD 2014’s outreach coordinator, said he enjoyed attending MLW as a high school senior and college freshman so much that he decided to get involved as a mentor.

“It’s just a great experience and I enjoy getting to be part of something that can really make a positive impact in a young person’s life,” Williams said.

Like the teen delegates, the staff members were diverse and each brought their own unique life experiences to share during both the comprehensive lessons and the more relaxed social activities. Throughout the experience, LEAD participants got to know their peers from other schools and other counties, delving into their differences as well as their commonalities. While the workshops are thought-provoking, there is equal time given for high-energy games of balloon stomp and campfire camaraderie.

“I really loved the whole program… I learned to talk in front of others and I made a ton of great friends,” Chopticon junior Shannon Burke said.

Many teens said the project planning and goal-setting skills were valuable and applicable takeaways they could use to reach greater success in many aspects of their lives. Others said they gained confidence in areas like public speaking and maintaining motivation.

“I really gained a lot from this, like great new friends, how to work together well and [the understanding] that there are people who really care,” Talia Thomas, an 11th-grade student at Patuxent High School said.

Housed in dorms on the waterfront campus of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the students got a little taste of college life and were treated to a guided tour of Historic St. Mary’s City with Regina Faden, executive director and LSM alumna, and Henry Miller, director of research. From the St. John’s Site Museum to boarding The Maryland Dove, delegates were surrounded by history while learning of the leadership principles utilized by Maryland’s founders in the 17th century and by those creating headlines today.

LEAD delegates also engaged in community service, doing their part to help clean up the St. Mary’s River and the Chesapeake Bay, learning more about environmental stewardship and restoration efforts through a partnership with the St. Mary’s River Watershed Association. Donning lifejackets and gloves, they worked alongside watershed association staff and volunteers to load dozens of Marylanders Grow Oysters cages and boarded a barge to deposit them at a designated spot within the oyster sanctuary.

This year, LEAD participants planted roughly 500,000 oysters, captured and examined aquatic creatures with a seining net and got up close and personal with the water-filtering bivalves.

Before delegates received their certificates, they presented synthesis projects as small groups, exercising teamwork, goal-setting and public speaking skills they’d honed during the program. Each year, teens use this platform to express topics they deem interesting and important to them, along with potential solutions or implementation plans while a panel of LSM board members and alumni ask questions and assess their projects.

The delegates offered projects focused on eliminating the 4-year math or English requirements if it proved unnecessary for a student’s career path choice; another proposed a Chesapeake Bay restoration project; and a third group concentrated on greater education about and a reduction in the use of prescription and opiate drugs.

Whether delegates decided to follow in the footsteps of an older sibling that previously benefitted from attending, returned for a second year or signed up at the urging of a relative or teacher, participants said they gained something useful at this unique camp experience and would recommend LEAD to their friends.

Leadership Southern Maryland is an independent, educational leadership development organization designed to broaden the knowledge base of mid- to senior-level public and private sector executives about the critical issues, challenges and opportunities facing the region. Leadership Southern Maryland is a not-for-profit organization.