Creating Future Leaders: Truman School Youth Leadership Academy

By Rachel Grant

Alumni Sean McLafferty remembers his start in politics around the 2nd grade.

“I remember watching Rush Limbaugh with my Dad,” McLafferty said. “I attended an NRA rally with him when I was in the second grade. Little did my Dad know that when I grew up, I would be a Democrat.”

With the focus on teaching and introducing youth to politics and government, the Truman School Youth Leadership Academy runs July 10-14. Student grades 6-8 will be engaging with leadership training. McLafferty, other alumni and current Truman School students have come together to give back to the community.

“I think volunteering is very rewarding because we are helping to guide the future leaders of our communities,” McLafferty said. “I love that the Truman School of Public Affairs puts together this camp to start kids involvement and understanding of government. They will  be more informed about public policy and civic service.”

Luke Dietterle, TYLA Intern and Margo Haynes, TYLA Alum and Junior Counselor lend Elaina Hendersen a hand on the high ropes course at Venture Out.

McLafferty currently serves as the legislative adviser for State Rep. Jon Carpenter. As a volunteer, he said he is looking forward to leading small group discussions with the campers and helping them grow.  But at same time he is ready for some fun at the obstacle course at Venture Out. 

“I hope the students feel inspired to make a difference. I hope we reaffirm things they are passionate about. I think we are providing them a place to express those aspirations,” McLafferty said. 

Different than McLafferty, current MPA student Ellen Hinze got her start in politics and public policy later in life. She said her parents never discussed politics with her as a child and she still doesn’t know her parents’ political affiliations. It wasn’t until Hinze came to MU as an undergrad where she became politically involved.  

“I am not even sure who my parents voted for. I think my Mom voted for Obama. So for me as a first-time voter, I didn’t see myself in the government process,” Hinze said. “It wasn’t until I took an Environmental Justice class that my eyes were opened to government processes.”

As a woman, Hinze hopes the youth become more familiar with women in power. She said we still see very few women involved with public policy and politics. She hopes her presence as a volunteer opens the minds of the campers to new understandings.

“I want to energize students who haven’t thought about their part in civic service. I hope they  build the confidence they need to make a difference because they are at a critical age where they need to learn more.”

She said Friday’s visit to Jefferson City to see the capital is the activity she is looking forward to the most. 

“It’s a concrete example of the government process,” Hinze said. “I hope they get to see how to open the lines of communication with people from different standpoints. I think that is really important. I think earlier they learn,  the better.”