“I want to use my passion for advocacy and for policy to create change.”
“Don’t be afraid to be the one person asking questions; knowledge is priceless. Always search for some sort of meaning in everything you do – no matter how small it may be. ”
Have you ever wondered what’s involved in becoming a standout leader?
What comes to mind as you read that word?
Back when I was a teen in a competitive school district, few words seemed as overused as leadership. It felt like everyone around me was being pressured into becoming a leader in whatever activities we were involved in. Becoming a leader meant obtaining a title—another gold star or award to leverage in our college applications. Leadership meant power and status. Leaders seemed to emerge only after they finished climbing their competitive mountain from beginning to end.
But I was mistaken. After gaining experience leading multiple groups in college, I gradually changed my views. Most of my early attempts were admittedly failures. Some were no big deal. Others were embarrassing and even painful at times. Consider the adrenaline rush and anxiety many of us feel when doing public speaking. Think back to the most nerve-wracking time you’ve had to speak in front of a large audience. Imagine how you’d feel if someone quietly walked up to you after you spoke and then, ever so gently, said that your fly was wide open the entire time. Genuine leadership then meant having the courage to fall headfirst into the mud, the resilience to immediately recover, and the communication skills to then redirect those behind you.
Leadership is an informal, role-based skill that you continually develop through ongoing experience and reflection. Leaders are those who are committed to the spoken and especially unspoken needs of their specific team or group at hand.
This definition was not immediately obvious to me. It’s an understanding that I gained by reflecting on past experiences with the help of mentors. Your own views and personal definition of leadership will likely be different. And that’s a good thing, too! Because leadership is a fluid concept that is culturally-dependent, specific to each discipline, and varies between teams. Being a leader is also not the same as holding a formal or management position. Leaders can be found in all kinds of situations as well as walks of life.
That said, there are 3 concrete and valuable leadership skills that anyone can develop:
1. Inclusion (connecting members based on common goals and values)
2. Facilitation (communicating different views then reaching agreement)
3. Negotiation (solving internal conflicts to maximize group interests)
Like all communication skills, these are improved through committed and deliberate practice within real situations.
Improving your leadership abilities is also separate from marketing yourself to college admissions offices or signaling your skill set to the job market. Although both are important, the first involves you personally defining then measuring your own success rather than appealing to others. You can improve as a leader by setting your own goals and then acting on advice from mentors or others that you value. Marketing your leadership abilities requires understanding your audience, recognizing their values, and then continually tailoring your message to them based on feedback.
Contributed by Nick Fochtman
Likely many of you have traveled during peak season at some point in your life. Or maybe you always travel during peak season. You’re probably then familiar with the horrible crowds, lines, and maybe even the extreme temperatures that come along with a peak season vacation. That’s not even mentioning the horribly high prices of travel and lodging during those periods as these companies exploit the fact that many people travel during these much-coveted seasons. But you don’t need to be one of them! There are some great times to travel that can still fit in nicely with many school schedules and can give some great benefits over those packed sardine pools in July.
Early June Travelers Unwind Faster
Most people don’t travel immediately after school lets out. They give their kids some time to “unwind” and then plan their family vacation somewhere between late June and early August (i.e. peak summer season). But what better way to unwind then to take that vacation right away! Moreover it can give you something to look forward to as the year comes to a close. That period can be one of the most slogging for students, with finals and everything weighing down hard and their free time dwindling to nothing. Having a vacation right at the end of the tunnel can provide that extra boost of motivation needed to push through those rough times and maybe even perform better.
On the vacation itself, the benefits only continue to add up. Reduced crowds and cost of travel and lodging are of course the biggest, but also most places are in the dead of summer or winter during the two big peak travel seasons. Those extreme temperatures can be quite uncomfortable. Trust me, there’s nothing as simultaneously amazing, sweltering, and packed as Disney World in July. You can dodge all of that if you just decide to jump in a little early.
Leaving Late is Just As Great
Taking your vacation just before school starts again, in early September or the end of August for most, can be just as great of an experience. Going in late August can provide a lot of great memories kept fresh in your mind to discuss with friends at school. The same benefits of missing the worst part of the crowd and getting discounts on travel also apply.
Another benefit of a late vacation is being able to get the time off for both you and your parents. Whether working part time or full time, businesses need help during peak travel season because everyone wants to travel. Delaying your vacation a little to cover everyone else can not only earn you some awesome cred at your job, it can make your own planning easier.
Early or Late, Both Are Great
Hopefully these tips have convinced you to come into your summer holiday a bit earlier or later than the masses. There are a lot of benefits to doing so, both on the vacation and in your life before or after the vacation itself. If you just try it once you’ll never go back to vacationing with the horrible crowds and heat again.
Did you know…?
GLA offers summer programs for teen travelers starting in the beginning of June and going all the way to the end of August. So if you’re looking for a program that fits those travel windows, check out all of our offerings by available dates here.
Contributed by Nick Bartholomew