Ten minutes of awkwardness. A room full of unfamiliar faces. I realized what our counselors wanted. I was at the Jr. National Young Leaders of America conference in Washington D.C. because my teachers nominated me. I didn’t know what to expect, but the trip made me a better leader and individual.
When I arrived in Washington D.C., the counselors separated us into groups. My group had twenty students. Our counselor stood in the middle, placed a sheet of paper on the floor, and left saying she’d be back in five minutes to start an activity. I talked with the two kids next to me about what state they were from and how their flights were. Ten minutes passed. I saw the clock and realized the counselor still hadn’t returned. I looked around the room and decided to grab the sheet of paper in the center. The kids looked at me as if I committed a crime.
“I don’t think she’s coming back. The activity says to say your name and something interesting about yourself. I can start and we just go around from me,” I said as nineteen faces starred at me like I had just split the Red Sea. Everyone thought it was a great idea.
Soon after, the counselor walked in and smiled. She said, “I’m glad you’re here Jake. You deserve to be. It usually takes the first kid twenty minutes to figure it out and step up.”
The rest of the trip, my group would come to me with ideas and to make final decisions. In a matter of ten minutes and one activity, I had earned trust and respect of a room full of strangers.
The situation showed me a leader is not only about the big picture, but in every day situations. This attitude has stuck ever since. My friends say if they need to remember when something is due, need help on a project or assignment, or just want advice they think of me first. I believe going to UW-Madison will further expand this attitude and benefit myself and the university.