Truman Youth Leadership Academy on the rise

This year’s Truman Youth Leadership Academy saw an increase in attendees and new activities.

“We continue to see our numbers rise each year,” Supervisor Tracey Potts said. “Ultimately, our goal is to serve 30 to 40 students.”

This year’s camp featured new activities, including a trip to Columbia’s recycling center and landfill, the high ropes course at Venture Out, and a mock legislative session on the House Floor at the Capitol. Potts said they wanted to give the students a diverse range of experiences.

“Going to Venture Out served as our icebreaker. It stretched the student’s capabilities for physical and mental challenges. They had to navigate the high ropes, which none of them had done before,” Potts said.

The different levels of education are key to the camp’s success, according to Potts. She said students are engaging in multiple levels of government and public policy. For example, the White House Decision Center at the Truman Library guided the students’ simulation of a Situation Room briefing on the Korean Conflict. Students assumed the positions of former-President, Harry Truman and his cabinet and sought to end the conflict using official briefing papers.

“They value the tangible experience of service and civic engagement while making new friends,” Potts said.

The camp not only expanded the skills and minds of the youth, but also that of Truman School graduate students. For MPA student intern, Luke Dietterle, the skill he cultivated the most during the camp was resourcefulness. As a new counselor, he said he had to think on the fly and contributed his own unique skill set and vision.

“The great thing about the Truman Youth Leadership Academy is that while the core curriculum remains pretty steadfast, each new person brings a different perspective to the camp that further enriches the experience,” Dietterle said.

Luke Dietterle works with students during the Truman Youth Leadership Academy

It was the freedom to make his mark on the camp that Dietterle enjoyed, but at the same time he said it would have been impossible without the time and assistance of many dedicated and selfless people.

“Building, cultivating, and maintaining the relationships that made the camp possible turned out to be probably the most important part of the job,” Dietterle said. “The whole experience rectified the need to value the time and contributions of others to meet your goals; and to make sure those helping you know their value.”

Because they value the students’ experiences, Potts said the feedback from the students and parents will determine next year’s direction.

“Year to year we have students who come back,” Potts said. “Some of them have aged-out of the camp and are entering high school. They served as junior counselors this year. We might have to expand the direction of the camp because they keep on returning and bring their friends and younger siblings.”