ROCK CREEK — LEADERship Ashtabula County kicked off its 2018-19 year of youth programming on Sept. 14 at Beaumont Scout Reservation in Rock Creek.

Almost 90 Ashtabula County juniors and seniors gathered to take part in a variety of activities to start off their year with LEADERship Ashtabula County. Schools from all over the county were represented, including Grand Valley, Pymatuning Valley, A-Tech, Jefferson, Edgewood, Lakeside, St. John, Geneva and Conneaut.

Juniors participated in a variety of activities, from a Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience (COPE) Course to talking about leadership and the Ashtabula community. Phil Williams, director of Camping Services at Beaumont Scout Reservation, provided trained COPE course staff to guide the junior participants through a team building, low ropes obstacle course and activities.

Youth LEADERship Program Manager Kelli Jones said the juniors would start participating in their monthly learning days in October, when they will begin to travel around the county, learning more about their community, developing their projects and building their leadership skills.

“The retreat was time spent learning more about themselves, each other and developing teamwork skills while having some fun. We’re looking forward to an exciting year with this great group of juniors and can’t wait until October,” Jones said.

Juniors also worked together to create categories of potential team projects for the year and exercised team building skills during a game of capture the flag.

Seniors took part in a similar day of activities as part of the LEADERship LAUNCHpad program. This group of participants completed the Youth LEADERship program last year as juniors and opted to continue with another year of leadership programming.

LAUNCHpad participants went through a high ropes COPE course and had to work through challenges individually while receiving support and safety assistance from classmates on the ground. The seniors climbed more than 30 feet up to navigate a variety of roped obstacles and then were launched down a zip line.

“We weren’t kidding when we said ‘LAUNCHPAD,’” program manager Stacy Stevenson said. “I think this was a great start to the programming year. For the seniors, they have a very full year ahead of them with lots of decisions and important milestones so we are really excited to have over 25 returning Youth LEADERship participants who have chosen to spend part of their senior year with us.”

Seniors also listened to guest speakers Trevor Sprague, CEO of the Ashtabula County YMCA, and LEADERship Ashtabula County Executive Director Laura Jones. Both shared their personal leadership stories.

Jones and Stevenson were also joined by some community volunteers. Both Stephanie Corlew of Wychock Physical Therapy and Ashtabula City Councilman and Chalk Box owner, Michael Speelman accompanied participants to the ropes courses. As a retired Marine, Speelman said he was excited to see students have this opportunity to work through the challenges and then discuss together how the lessons could be applied to their lives.

LEADERship Ashtabula County Board member Andrew Misiak, from the Juvenile Resource Center, and local business owner Rachael Merlene also stopped in to talk with the Youth Leadership participants. Merlene is also volunteering on the LEADERship Ashtabula County Youth Advisory Group throughout the year.

Scholarships are available for the Youth LEADERship program to prevent tuition from acting as a barrier for students who wish to participate.

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