By Morgan Flake
Imagine leading 42 high school students through an airport and onto a series of planes to a foreign country. Are you experiencing mild panic?
As a program manager at GV, this is part of my job. I love my job—I get to work with amazing youth, speak Spanish, travel, and work for social justice. It can be stressful at times! There are many details to manage. Luckily, the GV structure makes it easier. As the spring immersion approached, every time I started to stress about the tasks ahead, I remembered the team of Junior Leaders that I would be traveling with and my anxiety dissipated. Now, it may sound pretty wild that an adult program manager is relying on a group of four teen leaders and a teen intern, but what GV does—the leadership we build in young people—is remarkable. And reliable. Not only could I count on the five youth to initiate every passport check as we made our way through the airport, to get students to write letters to self on the plane, to start games at the waiting area—I needed to in order to encourage their leadership.
At GV I’ve learned that we can’t teach leadership, we can only share it. By stepping back, supervising, and using what we call the “invisible hand” of leadership, I can guide and monitor quietly in the background while the youth step up to lead the group.
It is a beautiful and inspiring thing to watch. Emily, Tia, Anthony, Nancy, and Rory absolutely rocked this immersion. When something slipped my mind, like training the Leaders of the Day for the next day, the Junior Leaders reminded me, rather than the other way around. They were highly observant, making sure that every participant felt included. They came up with their own strategies to solve problems. They intuited the best response to situations: when to intervene, when to go with the flow, when to delegate a task, when to pump up the group. Their leadership was democratic. They encouraged each participant to do their assigned job (whether making sure everyone was drinking water or making sure we were mixing up between gringos and Guatemalans), so that they could build their confidence and capacity to lead. I never stop marveling at how unique it is to develop these skills through the experiences GV offers.
I only began to learn these skills in college, more so after college. These students are prepared to lead diverse groups through challenging circumstances before they even graduate high school. I can only imagine what they will accomplish beyond 18 years old. They will be senators, teachers, and scientists. They will be leaders in whatever field they choose to pursue.
The first year leadership program shapes empathetic hearts and critical minds. It creates meaningful memories that I have seen change a person more than any textbook could. The Advanced Leadership Program takes that growth and understanding, and amplifies. Students learn to facilitate conversations, resolve conflicts, build movements. I can’t wait to see how our first year participants who continue with GV through the Advanced Leadership Program will grow as they build their leadership over the coming years, and I can’t wait to read about them in the newspaper someday. But they don’t need to wait until some arbitrary age to lead—Global Visionaries youth are leaders already, today.