Archive for Thursday, April 20, 2006

LHS junior in class of her own

Leadership Leavenworth-Lansing graduates first high school student

April 20, 2006

Lansing High School has a leadership class, but it's not exactly what Heather Bennett, an LHS junior, was wanting.

Bennett was searching for ways to get involved in the community and learn how to become a better leader. Plus, she wanted something that would look good on her college applications.

What she found was Leadership Leavenworth-Lansing, a class sponsored by the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce. The class was formed in the late 1980s to help get people more interested in volunteering and running for elected offices.

Bennett had never heard of the class before her mother found information about it online, she said. When she went to turn in her application, she said she got a little lost trying to find the chamber office.

But neither her unfamiliarity with the program nor her unique circumstances - the group had never had a high school student take the class - counted against her, and Bennett was one of 15 people accepted to participate in the leadership class.

The class met one Friday each month starting in September and graduated Wednesday, April 19, in a ceremony at the Riverfront Community Center.

Each month, the group learned about different aspects of the community, including the history of Lansing and Leavenworth, social services, law enforcement and Fort Leavenworth.

Bennett said her favorite lesson was the history and tour of Lansing and Leavenworth.

"I liked learning about the community that I live in," she said.

Though the class was "intimidating at first," Bennett said, she enjoyed meeting people in the class and learned networking skills. She said no one in the class treated her differently because she was younger.

Shelly Gowdy, vice president of Lansing school board, participated in the class with Bennett. She said Bennett brought a fresh perspective that was not what she would have expected from a teenager. And everyone seemed willing to listen to Bennett's ideas and views, Gowdy said.

"Heather brought, I think, a whole different flavor to the class," Gowdy said.

Gowdy said she was glad to have taken the class, but as a school board member, she said she was proud to have a student from her district participate in the program.

"I have a lot of respect for Heather," Gowdy said. "I love to see our young people have an interest in leadership."

With months of leadership training under her belt, Bennett said she had learned new ways to interact with people and become a leader. She also found an interest in Court Appointed Special Advocates, a volunteer service that provides assistance for abused children in the legal system. Bennett said she was interested in becoming a volunteer or even a member of the board of directors.

Bennett and Gowdy agreed that a class geared toward younger community members might be beneficial.

"I think it'd be good if they had a junior class and one for adults," Bennett said, adding that she would be willing to work on it if it came about.

Gowdy said a junior leadership class might help change students' minds about how they are viewed by the community.

"I think there's a feeling of apathy among our youth today that their voice is not heard and their vote does not count," she said. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

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