Learning to Lead: Crittenton's First-Ever Leadership Academy Weekend
For the past eight years, Crittenton Services of Greater Washington has held a series of workshops and enrichment activities to build on the girls’ knowledge of college, careers, and professional image, and to hone their leadership, advocacy, and communication skills. This is our Leadership Academy. This year, for the first time, Leadership Academy took place as a weekend-long retreat at the National 4-H Conference Center. Fifty girls from our SNEAKERS programs in Montgomery County and Washington DC came together with Crittenton program leaders, professionals from a diverse array of fields, as well as trainers specializing in youth education and advocacy, to learn more about leadership.
The 2017 Leadership Academy topics included:
• I Am A Leader, a workshop dedicated to developing self-advocacy skills, and the skills to be a Crittenton Ambassador
• My Voice Shall Be Heard Campaign, in which participants selected an issue impacting their lives and formulated an advocacy campaign to spread awareness about the issue
• My 21st Century Career, a career fair, centered on professional skills development
• Putting My Best Foot Forward, a workshop focused on building a personal brand, growing one’s networking skills and professional image
• Bringing It All Together, in which the girls practiced etiquette skills, and prepared for the “Talk With A Teen Girl” High Tea
Throughout the weekend, the girls became more confident in their skills as leaders, advocates and future professionals. One girl admitted, “I thought I was going to have a bad time, but I had fun meeting new people. Everyone was really nice, and I made new friends!” Girls from Washington DC had the chance to get to know girls from Montgomery County and vice versa. They chose an advocacy message in the “My Voice Shall Be Heard" Campaign session, to discuss with the professionals attending the “Talk With a Teen Girl” High Tea. Their topic? The normalization of sexual assault and combating rape culture.
Over the three days of the academy, the girls grew more confident in their abilities as leaders and as advocates. In the words of one of the participants, “I would say I have leader characteristics. I am very powerful and I enjoy speaking of what I want to do and who I want to be.” By the end, all of the girls had a better understanding of what advocacy was, how to give an elevator speech, and how to refine their personal brand as they enter the workforce. Many girls jumped at the chance to have speaking and non-speaking roles at the upcoming High Tea, during which they would share their experiences in SNEAKERS and at the Academy with more than 100 caring adults.
All 50 girls became Crittenton Ambassadors as the Crittenton staff led them in a pinning ceremony. Each girl received a special butterfly pin and a black blazer to commemorate their time at the Academy, as well as a certificate of completion, to showcase their new title. After the ceremony, the girls had many wonderful things to say about their experience in the Academy. One girl spoke of how she now wanted to be a leader for her younger brother, and to say to him, “Be yourself. Don’t do something just because everyone else is doing it. Be confident. Believe in yourself.” Another girl said that she liked to help people and motivate them - and that’s why she was a leader.
We look forward to continuing this new tradition of the Leadership Academy weekend for many years to come. We love seeing our girls blossom and deepen their skills as the leaders they truly are!