From participant to planner…Who ‘da thunk?

Currently our whole youth leadership team is in the thick of planning a huge retreat for 50+ Youth Leaders and Roots & Shoots staff members. This retreat is our annual Roots & Shoots Youth Leadership Training & Orientation retreat. This is an event where members from our four regional Youth Leadership Councils and College Leadership Council come together for leadership training workshops and to set their outreach goals for the coming year. This year we are having the retreat at Camp Highroad in Middleburg, VA. David and I made a site visit last week, and found the grounds to be very pleasant and perfect for our needs. We should have a lot of fun nestled in the woods.


So far David and I have spent most of the last few months planning the program for this retreat. This process has been particularly exciting for me, because it reminds me of all of the youth retreats and conferences that I attended throughout high school and college. Many of these experiences shaped the person I have become to day, giving me the confidence and the know how to be an affective leader in my community.

Thinking way WAY back I recall my first experience with a youth leadership event, that being a Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership conference. During the summer of ’99, nearly 8 years ago, I attended the conference in Findlay, Ohio at the University of Findlay. There, for an entire weekend we met with other like-minded youth and learned about what it took to be a great leader in our community. I think I can truly say that this experience was what interested me in youth leadership and really showed me how I can make a difference in my community.


As we have been working on the program for this retreat, I have been keeping that experience in my mind, and really hoping that we are putting something together that will be a similarly inspiring experience for the rest of the youth leaders involved. Through all of this planning, I guess I never even considered that someday I might be on that side of things, rather than on the participant side of things.

So far on the schedule we are going to have several guest speakers from the Jane Goodall Institutes Africa Programs and Public Policy programs. We will spend an afternoon working on general leadership skills such as effective communication, team-building, and coaching. Then more specifically we will be working in small groups to learn about how the youth leaders can best be involved in all that Roots & Shoots has going on. That being starting and supporting groups, navigating the website, and presenting Roots & Shoots to the public through presentations and writing. I think its going to be a good weekend and we should get a great deal accomplish. My hope is to send everyone home energized and ready to approach the coming year with confidence and passion.

-Shawn Sweeney, Graduate Fellow, Roots & Shoots, the Jane Goodall Institute



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