Straight Up Ventura County held its first ever Leadership Retreat on May 14th, and I was very impressed. Not because of the work that the Straight Up staff put into the event — although I should say here that it took a lot of work to pull this thing off, and the staff members did an awesome job with great help from the Ventura Unified School District — but more so, impressed with the students who attended it.
The Leadership Retreat’s goal was to find representatives from each of the middle and high schools in the Ventura Unified School District (VUSD) who wanted to make a difference by being leaders within their communities and peer groups and raising awareness on the topic of underage and binge drinking and impaired driving.
I have to say — every student who showed up and participated in the retreat had the qualities to be those leaders! The level of participation and the camaraderie that developed at the retreat was wonderful, and the cooperation between students from different schools, many of whom had never met each other before that day, was very heartening to see.
The leadership building activities were met head-on with little to no hesitation, and common goals were realized through teamwork and collaboration. One activity had small groups of students working together with portable video cameras to create video messages, public service announcements, and short movies dealing with the issues surrounding underage and binge drinking. The creativity that swelled from those videos, in turn, made their creators swell with pride as witnessed by the laughter, smiles, and applause that arose during the viewing session that ended the day.
On the bus ride home, positive comments even came from an unlikely source: the bus driver, who transported the students to and from the field trip. It was reported that she made a comment to both Straight Up staff members as well as VUSD staff members that she had never seen a group of kids who didn’t know each other — and who had all been rather introverted and quiet in the morning during the pick-up — so interactive and chatty, even singing songs together, on a bus ride home.
The kids that participated at this Leadership Retreat proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are true leaders and that they have what it takes to make a difference.
Congratulations to all of you. We hope that you experienced a little self-discovery at the retreat and we all here at Straight Up hope to have the pleasure of working with all of you more in the future.
Shawn McMaster is a project coordinator for Straight Up Ventura County.