Leadership Through Service (CFES)

Students present their plans!

“The skills we learnt today are vital for becoming a leader, these skills are the foundation of leadership. As we improve we build on that foundation creating something better, a skilful leader.”

That was the view one student following a Leadership Through Service training workshop here in Bridge21.

Leadership Through Service is one pillar of the College For Every Student (CFES) Initiative. CFES Scholars participate in leadership training and in ongoing service projects that not only make their schools and communities better places, but also develop self-confidence and other essential personal skills that will help them gain access to and succeed in college.

For us, that meant working with second year students from 11 participating schools in Dublin. We met almost 150 enthusiastic students and their teachers all eager to embrace the “Leadership through Service” program. Their challenge over the next term is to identify, research, plan and execute a school or community project. This will be a great opportunity for the students to demonstrate their leadership skills and think about issues that effect them and others in their community.

To help these young people to prepare for this challenge, we planned a session of “Hard Fun” encouraging them to explore their full potential. Each day we welcomed two schools of 12 participants each, mixed them up into teams named after some famous leaders: Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafi, Harvey Milk, Emma Watson, Sir Alex Ferguson and last but by no means least Professor X. The teams examined these leaders and explored what are the things that made these leaders famous and indeed what attitudes do we need ourselves to be good leaders


Leadership words

After this and a few games including “Kevin’s Boat” and the bodacious “Nuclear Reactor” we set about the main task for the day: The Brain Game. The Brain Game simulates the process of planning, researching and ultimately making a long-term service project happen. Each team was given a topic from the pool of; “Helping the Elderly”, “Anti-Social Behaviour” and “Healthy Living”. They had to decide on three actual events/activities they could run in relation to this theme, identify the resources they would need and plan these events. In reality, these groups will have approximately 4 months for this process which was condensed into 2 hours of Bridge21 time. Each month was roughly equivalent to 30 minutes and there were deadlines due to each month such as contact with school board of management, gathering sponsorship and booking venues.

“The Brain” at work.

“The Brain” was a collective body of all outside world contact from the teams. In order to make progress on their projects they needed to email the Brain. For parental consent? Ask the Brain…Want your Local Tesco to give you some free stuff? Send the Brain a begging letter…Booking the local parish hall? You need to let the Brain know your dates. However, the Brain does not know all the answers and beware that the Brain will want to know the finer details of your project as any stakeholder would! Finishing in “February”, each team presented their projects and talked a little about the process they had been through, the reasons they chose certain events and the unforeseen challenges they came across in their correspondence with the Brain.

Here is what some said of their experience at the workshops…

“We learned how to handle stuff like this and keep it controlled”

“It has prepared me in how I can work with other students and that in the future I can have a bigger task and I’ll know how to handle it”

“We will know what to do when doing this project so we will be able to tell the other students what to do”

“We now know how important it is to plan everything before you do it”

“It made me face some things that you might face in the real world”

“It has prepared me for the big project next year because we have already been through it”

“It felt like we were doing a real project when we were on the computers emailing the Brain”

“I now feel that it can be fun to be a leader in school and I would like to do it again”

And finally….

“I loved the day. Thank you so much for having us!”

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