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What leadership training in teens can teach community leaders

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Camila is a 17-year-old senior in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at Riverview High School and a proud Boys & Girls Clubs STAR (Students Taking Active Roles) Leadership Training alumna. STAR is a nationally recognized leadership program for high school students that encourages lifelong active citizenship.

"STAR was one of the programs that truly introduced me to advocacy and community involvement," Camila says. "Aside from teaching me teamwork and communication skills, the program exposed me to the term 'global citizen.' I realized the importance of being an active participant of our local community and the larger society."

During this comprehensive 10-week program, teens learn how they can participate in creating the world in which they want to live through leadership skill development, meetings with our community’s elected government and school board officials, service projects and more.

"In STAR, I learned it is not only our right to have access to resources and quality of life, but our duty to improve the systems that should provide us with these services," Camila says.

Camila's vision for the future reflects the experiences of people from all walks of life. In fact, she plans to attend an out-of-state college after high school graduation and explore careers in international relations, social justice and human rights.

"I started to work more in my community for the greater good and my personal growth after I graduated STAR," Camila says.

After she completed STAR, Camila became eligible to take her leadership training to one of our 90 partner agencies and serve as a voting Board member. Ms. Cassie, our Leadership Program Specialist, paired Camila with The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce (GSCC) and CEO/President Heather Kasten to help her gain a better understanding of the unique relationships between people, organizations and communities, an invaluable experience for Camila's career aspirations.

"Every student who graduates STAR has the opportunity to become a voting member of an executive board at an organization," Camila says. "Thanks to the Chamber’s willingness to consider the teenage perspective in the matter that concern the organization’s operations, I took a part in this initiative."

GSCC is a bridge that links businesses, organizations and residents together with programs that strengthen Sarasota's long-term economic vitality, business success, job creation and quality of life. 

"I am actually the first teen member that the Chamber has ever had on their Board! So, I think it is fair to say that it was a new experience for the Board and for me," Camila says. "I had never witnessed the running of an organization before, so the meetings were confusing at first but then I started learning with the guidance of members like Ms. Heather and realizing that I was acquiring knowledge that would accompany me forever."

As a member of the GSCC Board, Camila advocates for the prosperity of the local economy during meetings every month and community events. She also examines budgets, community initiatives and support for local businesses.

"As a STAR student, I realized my place in the world as a driver of change, the changes I want to see in my community and the world. And my Board taught me some of the skills to achieve these goal that my training fostered," Camila says. "At the Chamber, I have learned how to approach a professional environment where I must not feel fear to express my voice despite the extensive knowledge in the room."

Camila's perspective as a teen has been an invaluable addition to the GSCC Board.

"I wasn’t always a minority, but upon arrival in the U.S, I became identified as youth, woman, Hispanic, immigrant and low-income. Demographics became my name. However, as a member of the Chamber's Board, I am seen for who I am and not what I am," Camila says. "I am able to express my voice despite my accent. Being a student representative means that I get to demonstrate the teenage perspective and show that we care for what happens in our community as well. It is really a privilege."

With partners like GSCC and caring mentors like Heather, dynamic youth leaders like Camila have the chance to sit at the table and join in important discussions that shape our community's future. We invite you to witness this impact in action. Call 941-366-3911 to schedule a Club tour today.

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