The Blair County Youth Leadership Program is designed to help high school students in their sophomore year develop their—you guessed it—leadership skills. The program was developed by the Blair County Chamber of Commerce and has been active for over a decade.
During the spring of a student’s freshman year, they complete an application along with an essay and letters of recommendation. From there, students are chosen at random to make up a leadership class for the following year. Most Blair County schools will have at least two representatives.
Current Bishop Guilfoyle students enrolled in the program include Olivia Butler and Michael Montecalvo. Although two BG students are currently members of the program this year, four were accepted.
Over the summer before their sophomore year, the students attend an overnight leadership camp to work on team building activities. They continue to meet monthly for a day-long leadership class at the Greater Altoona Career and Technical Center. There, they study Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
While Covey’s book covers a wide scope of material too large and complex for this article, Forbes writer Eric Jackson boils the seven habits down to two main concepts: to take action, and to plan what you’re taking action about. The book also offers advice on prioritizing your time so that you are continually working toward those specific goals. You do this by classifying your activities into four quadrants: what is urgent and important; what is not urgent but important; what is urgent but not important; what is not urgent and not important.
Urgent-important are the most important things that will inevitably get done, such as meetings and deadlines. Not urgent-important consist of long-term goals that will most likely have no tangible results right away. Urgent-not important are things that we consider important, but upon examination don't yield many benefits, such as a poorly thought out meeting. Not urgent-not important are the total time suckers, such as social media or television.
The students then implement these core values presented by Covey into their respective beneficial excursions. The program seeks to teach students that they have the capability to make a difference in their community.
The goal of the program is simple: to instill a sense of civic pride and community involvement in students. “I think this program helps create a better connection for students to Blair County, and helps area businesses to feel more connected to our youth,” said Emily Barkman, School Counselor for grades 10-12 at Bishop Guilfoyle. “Often we see students stepping out of their comfort area and joining other community-based programs like the Young Entrepreneur's Academy.”
The hope is that students who go through the program will take their leadership skills back to their respective communities.
Current BG senior Tessa Crider has found that the program has left her with a lasting and positive impact. “The Leadership Blair County program was an experience that I will always cherish,” said Crider. “It not only taught me some very important qualities that will help me become a great leader, but it also allowed me to network with students and mentors that opened so many doors for me. I would definitely recommend this program to students who want to make a difference in their schools.”