I can't believe that Summer Vacation is almost here. School will be out soon, we'll be basking in the warm SoCal sun, and parents are starting to think about summer plans for their teenagers. On the one hand, your teen has worked hard all year and is entitled to a well-deserved break. On the other hand, you don't want them laying around for three months while their brains turn to mush. There are a lot of summer programs out there, but many of them are quite expensive. If you're looking for an inexpensive solution for your teen to keep occupied, be creative, and do something that is meaningful to them, a Summer Leadership Project may be the answer!
The Academic Life Coaching program culminates in my teenage clients getting the ball rolling for their own Leadership Project. However, you can encourage your teen to start thinking about a Summer Leadership Project now.
The first step is to help your teen identify their passions. Ask them what they love to do and why they love doing it. If they had a month completely free, what would they choose to do? Exactly what do they love about it? Some teens may be able to answer right away. For example, one of my students answered immediately that he could not imagine a a month going by without playing his saxophone. However, other teens may really have to think about what they love to do. Another student of mine took a few minutes of self-reflection before he responded that he liked building things and helping people. What are some of your teenagers' passions?
Once a passion has been identified, it is important to nurture it and see how it can make an impact on the community. That is where the Summer Leadership Project comes in! Regarding his or her passion, ask your teen what is needed in their community. With my saxophone playing, music loving student, he was very grateful that he had the opportunity to spend last Spring Break on a band trip to Hawaii. However, he knew that he was fortunate because it was expensive, and not all students could afford the trip. He talked to his band teacher and is currently planning an end of the year concert fundraiser where the Seniors will play and help raise money for the underclassmen to go on the Hawaii trip next year. My other student who loves building things is currently trying to start an Engineering Club at his school. He hopes for the club to have a building contest that will be sponsored by local merchants in the field like auto mechanics and Home Depot.
Another great example of a teen Leadership Project is something I recently read in a local Brentwood newspaper. A Brentwood teen developed the Apple app "iSketch" for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It is described as a modern-day "Etch a Sketch." The 14 year old inventor came up with the idea during recuperation from a surgery. He realized that many young people would need something to occupy their time and minds while either awaiting or recovering from surgery. Thus, he combined his passion for computers and a need in the community to create "iSketch."
A Summer Leadership Project can also be a smaller, short project. Perhaps your teenager can be in charge of a specific aspect of planning the family vacation or making a meaningful painting to hang in the entryway of the house.
We, as human beings, of any age, thrive when we find something to do that we find purposeful and meaningful, and have the chance to exercise autonomy (self-direction). When we're able to apply all of this towards a project that is of service to the community, then we can reap the rewards of feeling fulfillment.
With teenagers having more spare time in the summer, it is the perfect opportunity to think about what kind of projects would bring them fulfillment. This type of critical thinking builds leadership skills that can accompany them for a lifetime.
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