Leadership Skagit students form teams for community projects

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

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MOUNT VERNON – A newly formed team of six Leadership Skagit students walked along a trail, getting to know each other on a drizzly September afternoon at the Samish Island Campground during the program’s two-day retreat.

The team, along with four other teams participating in breakout sessions, were taking their first steps toward developing community projects.

By the end of the 9-month program, all five teams will have completed a project, making a positive impact on the community.

How they get there and what they do is the critically important practicum of the program, said program director Kathryn Bennett.

“Projects provide the chance to practice leadership skills and apply leadership knowledge in a supportive, collaborative and self-reflective environment,” Bennett said.

Examples of recent Leadership Skagit projects include the entrepreneurial on-ramp program StartUp Sedro-Woolley, the implementation of a program modeled after Leadership Skagit for Anacortes High School students and the renovation of Camp Korey’s amphitheater.

A successful project is measured based on the development of every team member’s leadership skills including the ability to engage and contribute to the team, promote the leadership development of fellow team members and apply behaviors that increase group performance.

Leadership Skagit teams are chosen by a committee looking for as much group diversity -- age, industry of employment, city of residence and more -- as possible, said Leadership Skagit Facilitator Kara Stamback, enabling students to work outside their comfort zones.

“It can make for some fun dynamics as you get to know and understand your teammates,” said Stamback, a Leadership Skagit graduate. “I grew tremendously as a person while navigating a new set of waters.”

Over the course of the next month or so, Leadership Skagit teams will come up with team names, mission statements and choose community projects. Projects are chosen based on needs expressed by community organizations.

“Teams will get together, find community partners that have shared values and talk them to find out what they need,” Stamback said. “Then you come back as a team and see what projects you want to do. You usually pick something completely different than what you came in thinking you’d do.”

This method is important because groups then connect with the actual needs of the community rather than perceived needs, Stamback said.

Another learning element of the team project is the experience of handling competing demands on time, difficult conversations and rapid change.

All of these are core to the leadership experience, Bennett said.

Next up for the Leadership Skagit class of 2020 is the first challenge day Oct. 18, focusing on opportunities and challenges. This first challenge day is unique because it’s based on the community needs identified by the students. The day is therefore designed on what the class believes to be most important.

To learn more about Leadership Skagit, click here or call 360-336-6114.

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