Local teens complete week-long leadership camp

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Standing before a group of local teenagers and their parents at the Sector One police precinct on Monday evening, Chief William Freeman held up a coin.

Normally awarded by the department to civilians who display a special honor and merit, the coin displays pictures of the American flag, and the country’s mascot, the bald eagle. It proclaims knowledge, integrity, and strength.

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That’s what made the piece an appropriate honor for the department’s Commonwealth Youth Conference for Leadership Effectiveness (CYCLE) program. The conference helped many of Suffolk high school students develop these qualities – and many more. Sponsored by the Virginia Police Chief’s Foundation, the event helped local youth develop leadership skills during a week-long camp at Virginia Tech in late July. A total of 14 students from Lakeland, Nansemond River and King’s Fork attended.

&uot;When kids start off school,&uot; Freeman said, &uot;parents and grandparents are sometimes pulled away, just when they’re needed most. You as parents and students should be very proud.

&uot;You don’t have to look far for heroes,&uot; he said. &uot;Your parents are heroes. You see them get up and go to work and do something positive every day. Even if they don’t feel good, they still get up and go. They’re the real heroes of your life.

&uot;What you’re doing now is the foundation for what you’ll do in the future,&uot; he said. &uot;You might build the prettiest house in the world, but if it’s on sand, it will still collapse. You had the opportunity to get knowledge in an academic setting, which is something a lot of people don’t have. Regardless of what you think you don’t have, a lot of other people have even less.&uot;

Before attending the event, campers had to put together a 150-word essay on why they would like to go (they also had to maintain at least a 2.0 grade point average). Nansemond River student Jaleesa Lewter wrote about focusing on making herself a better person.

&uot;We learned about the habits of becoming effective teens,&uot; said Lewter, 15. &uot;Things like leadership, commitment and teamwork. We had to build a raft to get across water, and help our teammate walk through a maze blindfolded. It helped me become a better leader. I know how to listen to people before acting, and think before I speak.&uot;

By this time next year, fellow River students Whitney Crawford and Ariel James might be back at Tech – as students.

&uot;It helped me deal with my peers and authority,&uot; Crawford said of the camp. &uot;It prepared me to be a leader in the real world.&uot;

&uot;Being away from home for college might be hard,&uot; said James. &uot;But I think the leadership skills I learned will help me handle it well.&uot;