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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, June 17, 2018 1:00 am

Institute teaches 18 talented high schoolers

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

They met Fort Wayne's mayor and sat in a judge's courtroom. Nearly 20 students – all still in high school.

Years from now, it's conceivable they could be in those sorts of seats – or something comparable. Hopefully, whatever they choose will be in Fort Wayne.

The 18 students who had those experiences last week are part of the inaugural High School Leadership Institute, organized by Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.

High school principals and counselors helped identify students who “needed that extra push” to get involved in the community “and see themselves as more of a leader,” said Kourtney Teegardin, vice president of leadership development for YLNI.

The High School Leadership Institute is designed to “expose them to the community to sort of build attachment to Fort Wayne,” she said.

The program is a “boiled-down version” of a leadership institute that already exists locally for young, emerging professionals. YLNI just concluded that program for the year – it normally runs January through April and has now trained more than 400 people, Teegardin said.

The high school institute is being offered at no cost to youth. Twenty-one students were approved for the program, which has several business and other sponsors to help with expenses such as lunch on the days the institute meets.

“We originally accepted 21, but they had no skin in the game,” Teegardin said. “They had to want to show up and then show up.”

The high school institute began last week with two 9 a.m.-to-noon sessions and concludes this week with three sessions, including a behind-the-scenes tour at Parkview Field and Embassy Theatre.

Leadership lessons, naturally, are also part of the program.

Last week, the students participated in discussions about interpersonal communications, such as when is it an appropriate time to call, text or email. On the first day, they learned about different personality styles.

A volunteer from YLNI is with the students each time they meet. The organization will do a survey at the end of the last session, seeking feedback for what it hopes will be a sustained program, Teegardin said.

“High School Leadership Institute is a way for youth to advance themselves in our community through learning and networking with their peers,” Stephanie Taylor, one of seven volunteers who planned the program, said in a statement. “Getting them in a room with these community professionals would not be possible, but for this program.”

Quick tip

A recent email with the subject line “Ways Employers Should Show Their Employees They Care” included several tips from Kerry Alison Wekelo, author of “Culture Infusion: 9 Principles to Create and Maintain a Thriving Organizational Culture.”

Empathy is crucial, the email said. Here's a couple of specific tips:

• Cover for them. When employees have a crisis and need time away, Wekelo said, quickly and nicely assure them that they are covered and can focus on their personal situation.

“This alleviates the stress of having to worry about work,” she said. “And don't make them feel like they have to hurry back.”

• Reach out consistently and with sincerity. Consistent communication with the employee while away shows the employee you truly care.

“During the life event, regularly send the employee notes or texts that you are thinking of them,” Wekelo said. “Send a personalized card, too, but the proactive, frequent communication makes all the difference. And it should continue after they return to work, which may be when they struggle most.”

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at Lead On also appears online as a blog at