Longtime Urban Initiatives supporter and current Board member ME Girgenti shares her experience from the third Take the Lead retreat of the year.
What do you get when you bring 50+ Take The Lead Team Captains together on a cold winter’s day? Unbridled enthusiasm and positive energy bouncing off the walls, to start. And let’s not forget open minds and full hearts.
Knowing that these kids are the most dedicated Work To Play program graduates, all of that wasn’t necessarily a surprise to me. Nor was their burning desire to improve both soccer and leadership skills, which are typical TTL retreat programming components.
What was a surprise to this longtime Urban Initiatives supporter and current UI Board member was the expansion of the TTL curriculum to include a service learning segment. Combined with the lesson on task persistence, the participants received an exceptionally motivating interactive presentation from Tyler of Free The Children, which was founded by a 12-year old boy in 1995 to empower fellow youth to bring about positive social change for oppressed children all over the world. Learning the origins of that non-profit organization was nothing shy of inspirational. Not only did it broaden the Team Captains’ perspectives, it also demonstrated what a child can do, given the dream and the determination. In the break-out planning sessions that followed, the kids discussed things that could be improved in their own neighborhoods, which was a sobering exchange, for sure. Then, brimming with excitement, they brainstormed ways that positive change could be attained.
From my perspective, this retreat was a smashing success! Our UI TTL kids are taking what they learned through WTP – i.e., learning to be responsible for their own actions – to a whole new level. Now they are expanding that viewpoint to better understand how their positive choices can also impact their schools and communities. Our Team Captains are learning the importance of giving back and serving as ambassadors of change for a better Chicago.
Way to go UI!