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Youth learns leadership skills at conference

Foster was nominated to attend a leadership conference by her future sixth grade teacher Ruth Carlson. Reminder Publications submitted photo
By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

LONGMEADOW This fall, local middle student Olivia Foster will take part in an extraordinary leadership conference in Washington, D.C.

Themed "Voices of Leadership: Reflecting on the Past to Create the Future," the Junior National Young Leaders Conference (JrNYLC) introduces young people to the rich tradition of leadership throughout American history while helping them develop their own leadership skills. Olivia was nominated for JrNYLC by Ruth Carlson of the Grammar School in Somersville, Conn.

"Olivia is an outstanding student," Carlson said. "She's mature and she has the potential for leadership. She gets good grades. She's focused and articulate."

This fall, Olivia will be a sixth grader at the Grammar School where there will be much more potential for leadership.

"Every grade at the Grammar School has a focus, and for sixth graders, it's on leadership and setting a good example," Carlson explained.

As the highest grade in the school, sixth graders help to run the annual Memorial Day program that brings in guests from the Connecticut state government; work with kindergarten students and accompany them on a bus trip to the symphony; raise and lower the flag every day; and run the school store (called the Pencil Box) by selling items, but also through buying supplies and handling all the accounting themselves.

Carlson won't be Olivia's teacher until the fall, however. "I'm really looking forward to teaching her and her classmates," she said.

"The aim of the Junior National Young Leaders Conference is to inspire students to recognize their own leadership skills, measure their skills against those of current and former leaders and return home with newfound confidence in their ability to exercise positive influence within their communities," said Mike Lasday, Executive Director of the Congressional Youth Leadership Council, the organization that sponsors JrNYLC. "Young people are not only welcome in Washington, D.C., they actually keep this city and our country running."

During the six day program, scholars take part in educational activities and presentations; scholars may also meet with elected officials and key congressional staff members on Capitol Hill. Students visit relevant sites, such as the historic district of Philadelphia, Pa., Harpers Ferry, W.Va. and Washington, D.C.'s monuments and memorials.

In addition to examining notable U.S. leaders and historic figures, students study the impact of leadership throughout critical periods of American history including the Civil War and Reconstruction, World War II, the Great Depression and the Civil Rights Movement. Upon completion of JrNYLC, students gain a greater understanding of the role individuals play in American democracy, as well as the responsibilities of being a leader.