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Building leaders one Badger High student at a time

:: Car wash fundraiser an exercise in learning

Robyn Mayer /The Week

(Published July 27, 2007 9:43 a.m.)

It is said that great leaders are born, not made.

Badger High School wants to change that.

A class called Leadership Dynamics seeks to find the leader in every student. Every summer for the past 17 years, Badger High School students, from incoming freshman to seniors, choose to enroll in a course that will help them develop their leadership skills.

Last weekend, the level II class, which was comprised of sophomores and juniors, finished off their week with the car wash.

Some were washing, some were drying and one student was meticulously cleaning side-view mirrors and windshields.

But all were working as a team.

When one student moved on to something else, another jumped in to take over that task. This was not just a car wash. It was the culmination to a week's worth of activities designed to bring out the leader in each participant.

The proceeds were donated to the Walworth County Adult Special Olympics.

Throughout the week, course instructors David DeShambo and David Davila guide the students through multiple activities that include physical and mental elements. Called low rope activities, these are designed to challenge each group to look at a situation and determine what they need to do to finish the task.

The students learn how to work together as a team, how to rely on each other's different strengths and how to problem solve.

"The kids may spend three hours on one task and still not get it done," states DeShambo. "But they learn how to survive under fatigue and pressure."

There are different roles of leadership, according to Davila and DeShambo. Sometimes a methodical, thinking approach is needed while other times a physical approach works better.

Still other situations require a person play the role of creative problem solver while another requires a role of encourager.

If you ask the students what they liked best about the class, you get a variety of enthusiastic answers. "I liked getting to know everyone and working with everyone," said Haley Griswold.

Travis Schiller liked the all-nighter that was held. "We watched movies, played games ... and watched the sunrise. That was pretty cool."

Leadership Dynamics teaches that a good leader plays a different role at different times, depending on the puzzle that presents itself. The activities that the students participate in "lets the kids sort things out for themselves," states Davila.

"Everyone can be a leader when things are going great," says DeShambo, but it takes skill and a good sense of self to be a leader when the chips are down.

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