Summer camp focuses on leadership skills

Michelle Williamson, middle, helps teammate Juan Ceniceros, left, walk his way across an uneven two-by-four during a ropes course during a Leadership Odyssey activity in Clovis Community College’s gym. The activity helps students learn to work toget

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

About 20 students watched warily as Clovis Community College faculty member Brad Heath placed two-by-fours, wooden steps and square palettes in a seemingly random pattern across the gym floor.

The students’ task was to make their way from one side of the gym to the other, only setting foot on the wood pieces.

“It’s a team building and problem solving activity,” Heath said as students balanced their feet on the wood and worked together to move forward across the gym floor.

The exercise is part of CCC’s Leadership Odyssey, a summer camp designed to help high school sophomores, juniors and seniors develop leadership skills.

Connected by rope, the two-by-fours would be the students’ only means of reaching the first wooden palette. Once the students reached the first palette using the “skis,” they were only allowed to step on the wooden pieces Heath had placed sporadically in the gym.

“At first you want to help them, but it’s best to let them experience it,” said Heath, who teaches in the health and physical education department. “Experiential learning is really big in education now.”

Having the students work through problems and activities is how Leadership Odyssey works. The 96 students are split into groups and do activities as a group focusing on leadership, goals, and teamwork.

“All the activities are hands-on,” said April Chavez, the program’s coordinator this year and CCC’s financial aid director. “They learn more when they are doing and seeing than if we lecture to them and lose them completely.”

Leadership Odyssey, established in 2001, includes students from the college’s GEAR UP and Upward Bound programs. Students have planned a leadership camp for younger students July 21-25 as a service learning project.

“They decided they wanted to share the activities and lessons they’ve learned with younger kids,” Chavez said. “I just help with the planning details.”

Ashlynne Delamater, 16, said she is learning a lot.

“The games show us how to be a leader,” Delamater said. “It’s a fun way to show us.”

Tim Chavez, 15, who is involved in the Upward Bound program, said he found the exercises challenging.

“It’s a lot of teamwork,” said Chavez, as he described one of the tasks where six students were on a mat and they had to work together to flip the mat over without stepping off of it.

“We listened to each other and little by little we were on the other side.”

In addition to team building and trust activities such as Heath’s rope course, students are making daily trips to the campus this week to meet leaders from the CCC community.