Read, Set, Lead!
As our teens travel the high school path toward AP exams, college app essays, and interviews for jobs, scholarships, gap-year programs, and other postsecondary opportunities, they’re going to get asked about leadership. What makes a good leader? How do you demonstrate leadership skills? Why do you consider yourself a leader?
We structure life at TY so teens can try out leadership in many ways and develop their own answers to these questions. Alumim, our youngest campers, are introduced to historic leaders. Yachad offers tools for leadership, and in Hadracha campers get hands-on opportunities to lead.
Even though leadership development is a multifaceted goal for all campers, it’s still a joy to hear the unique ways they talk about it. Sifting through the memories campers shared with us from this summer, I noticed how many talked about leadership in terms of their efforts of preparation.
“This past week, we focused on tikkun groups and preparing for our trip week to Washington, D.C. At the same time, our other energies were focused on the planning of Maccabiah. It brought all of Hadracha together to form a community of passionate, inspiring, and motivational kids who will showcase our skills for Alumim and Yachad. Not only did we come together as a community, it showed us what we are capable of and how far we can push ourselves.”
Prepared to Lead
As adults, and specifically as Jews, we know we can’t just show up for anything without preparing. Not if we want a good outcome. In Judaism, we prepare for everything. Kids spend years preparing to lead their first service. We prepare before we fast and before we eat, before we pray and before we sleep. We prepare our home for Shabbat, our sukkah for Sukkot, and our pantries for Passover. We put in the work beforehand so in the moment we are ready—ready to lead, if we’re leading ourselves on our own journey or bringing others along with us.
Whether they were heading to Washington, D.C. to speak to members of Congress, going to the Tel Yehudah campground for the night, getting ready for Shabbat, or anticipating the arrival of the Maccabiah games, our teens talked a lot about getting ready—not just the rigor of the effort, but the benefit of it.
“Along with my peers, we all grew as leaders in a very short amount of time. With my fellow captains and Hadracha campers, we went through the planning process of Maccabiah and learned about every type of leadership...When the day of Maccabiah arrived, I knew everyone was completely prepared. Tasks had been delegated, cheers had been written cooperatively, and when I and my fellow captains stood in front of our teams, we felt a sense of accomplishment before the day even got underway. “
While we often recognize leaders as the people whose voices are heard above the rest, I believe the thoughtfulness or preparation—anticipating a desired outcome, identifying what’s needed to achieve it, and figuring out how to get that done is an often-overlooked element of leadership. Preparation has to happen before anyone stands up and leads anyone anywhere, and our campers figured learned that in many ways.