This week I had the great pleasure of graduating from Leadership Kenosha (Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce and UW-Parkside Partnership).

Leadership Kenosha is a nine-month professional leadership program. The main aspects of the program focus on development in the areas of personal and interpersonal skills, team building, conflict management and communication and presentation skills.

This opportunity provided me with a great deal of knowledge, exposure and experience. It was great to be able to share with youth I work with, that I too was involved in leadership training — a true example of lifelong learning.

Employers are increasingly desiring prospective employees with leadership skills because they know this investment has a residual effect on their company or organization performing at a high level.

According to the Center for Leadership, “Strong evidence shows that investment in leadership development will improve the bottom-line financial performance, attract, develop and retain talent, drive strategy execution and increase success in navigating change.”

Developing the skills of youth early on can provide an advantage as they grow and go into the workforce. Youth oftentimes develop their leadership skills through school and local youth-serving organizations.

Leadership programs for youth

Programs in Kenosha like Youth In Governance and Youth As Resources provide opportunities for youth leadership here in Kenosha.

Through both programs, youth are introduced to youth-adult partnerships that provide a great deal of coaching and give a voice to oftentimes an untapped population.

Both of these youth leadership opportunities provide youth exposure to developing communication, problem solving, team building, public speaking, decision making, power sharing, etc.

These type of programs prove to have positive outcomes not only for the youth involved but also for the adults involved and the overall community.

One of the most important components of leadership is learning to lead yourself before you can truly lead others.

Creating forward thinkers

Providing leadership development for youth can serve to create the next generation of forward-thinking leaders.

Emphasizing the value that lies within successes as well as in mistakes is valuable to being a strong, impactful leader.

Through early leadership development, youth can gain transferable skills that will be helpful as they transition into adulthood.

These youth become self-aware and develop soft skills to have the confidence to face challenges and make informed decisions.

Leadership development in young people early on can cultivate a future of great change agents.

Today’s youth will face even more complex issues than what current leaders are facing today. Investing in the development of leadership skill in young people will have a great return on investment.

Early exposure to leadership development opportunities is key for developing leadership in youth.

When youth have these types of experiences, they are able to draw the connections to their future workplaces, future community, and to their future leadership endeavors.

Youth voice can be impactful and is critical to the progression of society.

To find out more about programs through UW-Extension and various opportunities, browse our website athttps://kenosha.uwex.edu/youth-development/

Vickie LeFlore is Positive Youth Development Extension Educator for the UW-Extension, Kenosha County.

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