Some local elementary students have been learning leadership skills thanks to the American Red Cross.
Funds from a new grant allowed the ARC Augusta Chapter to bring their Elementary School Leadership Development Conference to McDuffie County. The conference consisted of a one-day workshop for fourth and fifth graders in the 21st Century summer program at Norris Elementary and Dearing Elementary schools. Classes included first aid, community disaster education, presentation skills, team building and cultural diversity.
"(The students) thought it would be boring, but now they are excited," said Melissa Pinkston, a parapro at Dearing Elementary. "Normally in the summer we do things like poetry or puppetry. But this is something they can use all their life."
In the first aid/community disaster education class, students participated in a disaster scenario in the form of a game which kept their interest, while at the same time forcing them to think on an adult level. Students had to come up with their own list of items to stock that would be necessary in the event of different disasters.
"I learned you have to have lots of stuff to be safe," said Dearing Elementary student Yuliana Baez, 10.
Her classmate, Courtland Pinkston, said she was impressed they were taught how to use cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Courtland said she considered the procedure something only grown-ups knew how to do.
"But I liked the diversity class the best, because we got to move and dance around," the nine-year-old said.
In addition to moving and dancing around, cultural diversity encouraged the students to consider the variety of humanity without judgment.
"I learned that stereotyping means judging people and grouping them," said Shelby Davis.
The Red Cross is focusing on teaching such concepts at an earlier age to foster community service and volunteerism and awareness, according to Lynn Reese, the director of youth services. She said the leadership class focused on the characteristics of a good leader and studied past and present great leaders. Ms. Reese said many children don't look to great leaders as their role models.
"Too many kids today look to rock stars," she said.
The conference topics were even more appealing to the young students because they were taught by the high school Youth Board members of the Augusta Chapter of the ARC.
"I think it is great being involved with a bunch of individuals that share the same thoughts as me," said Stewart Zellars, a junior at Davidson Fine Arts school in Augusta. "I feel like there's a real purpose in reaching out to the community."
Ms. Reese said the grant is allowing them to take the ESLDC to nine rural counties in the Central Savannah River Area this year.
Normally, it has been held only at Augusta State University, and attended by Richmond and Columbia County students who were selected by their principals.
Ms. Reese said opening the free conference to after-school and summer programs will broaden the visibility of the Red Cross.