Changing Lives and Strengthening Connections: How Youth Leadership Organizations Band Together to See Students Succeed
When people put their heads together to achieve a goal, amazing things can happen. The same can be said for organizations that work together to better the community. Maryland Leadership Workshops partners with some incredible organizations who also strive to see student leaders discover their potential, refine their skills, and work together to achieve their goals, while making a difference in their schools and communities.
Two organizations that have helped us train and connect with more students across the state of Maryland and improve the MLW experience for our staff and delegates are the Maryland Association of Student Councils (MASC) and the Charles County Association of Student Councils (CCASC). With collaborative opportunities and their support, MLW shares our magic with more people while offering students different leadership perspectives and real-life experiences.
The Maryland Association of Student Councils (MASC)
MASC—a peer-led, hands-on leadership organization—teaches students about important skills such as organization, responsibility, communication, time management, decision making, and professional writing, while focusing on issues including mental health, cultural sensitivity, biases, and more. Offering workshops, round-table discussions, town halls, and conferences, MASC teaches students how to navigate difficult or uncomfortable situations that they might experience as community leaders.
MASC has supported MLW from the very beginning, seeing as MLW was originally known as MASC Leadership Workshops. “The purpose was ‘promoting leadership in student councils’ and utilizing peer facilitators,” shares Karen Crawford, MASC assistant executive director and longtime MLW advocate and supporter. “In 1972, when the sponsorship of MASC went to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), MASC Leadership Workshops became an independent entity known as Maryland Leadership Workshops.”
But MASC’s support did not stop there. Ever since the first annual summer conference in 1956, MASC has supported MLW by sending its four elected officers to MLW summer programs, spreading our mission, and networking with our delegates and staff. “Students have different needs and engaging in MASC and MLW programs exposes them to unique view points and experiences,” shares Nicete Moodie, MASC executive director and alumnus and past regional president of Charles County. “It’s important to show our students how two organizations can effectively support one another. Many of our students go on to work with MLW and we always love having MLW at our conferences.”
MASC students are encouraged to attend MLW programs, while many MLW staff members present at MASC’s conferences or help train student leaders at MASC events. “From the modeled leadership and workshop content to the student-led discussions, the mutual support we share is invaluable,” states Karen. “This partnership allows MASC and MLW to influence and assist students to be the best they can be in order to inspire the next generation of student leaders,” adds Nicete.
The Charles County Association of Student Councils (CCASC)
Another organization that is heavily involved with MASC and MLW is the Charles County Association of Student Councils (CCASC). In fact, CCASC learned about MLW through its membership with MASC. “Our students have attended workshops and summer programs with MLW every year that we have been a member of MASC,” states Gary Winsett, CCASC regional advisor. “Many students in Charles County have gone on to serve as staff for MLW.”
Having assisted as CCASC regional advisor for 12 years, Gary oversees and coordinates all efforts that involve the student governments from across Charles County—including all middle school and high school student councils. After witnessing how vital MLW workshops are to the growth of student leaders, Gary presented the idea to the Charles County School Board to send one student from every middle and high school to MLW. “We are blessed with a supportive school board when it comes to student leaders. They have always been supportive of our efforts, attending student led events, and encouraging the student voice,” he states. “When I suggested my idea to send students to MLW, they were on board from the beginning.”
Depending on an institution’s selection preference, one CCASC student from each school attends an MLW program each year. “I reserve a spot for our student member of the Board of Education as a CCASC representative to strengthen their leadership and communication abilities when working with our Board of Education members,” states Gary. “Students take these leadership skills and use them as they mature into adult leaders. They grow in self-awareness, self-confidence, as well as collaboration and compassion with others.”
Partnerships that Inspire Powerful Change
You can learn more about MLW and its one-of-a-kind partners at mlw.org/partnerships.
Maryland Leadership Workshops Content Director Tiffany Wang tells us what delegates can expect from MLW On Tour
Due to the pandemic, Maryland Leadership Workshops truly reinvented itself in 2020, offering MLW @Home – a virtual program that gave delegates across the state the opportunity to experience MLW at no cost for the first time. This year, with concerns about COVID lingering, the MLW team is innovating again to create another first-time experience – MLW On Tour!
Consisting of four three-day workshops in different regions of the state between July 7 and July 28, MLW On Tour will give delegates the opportunity to gather safely in-person close to home. And for those who can’t attend in person, MLW will again offer free content online to give every Maryland middle- and high-school student the opportunity to immerse themselves in all aspects of leadership.
We recently spoke with Tiffany Wang, MLW Content Director, to learn more about the MLW On Tour experience and what delegates can expect this summer.
Q: This year will look different than MLW’s traditional residential summer programs. Can you tell us how each MLW On Tour stop will be structured?
A: Even though MLW On Tour is not our traditional summer program, we still aim to provide the same “MLW magic” – a transformative experience in leadership anchored in social justice – just as we do every year. This summer we are focused on helping delegates develop the tools they need to be able to advocate for the issues they're passionate about in their own communities. Each tour stop will include three workshops, community-building discussions, guest speakers, and a community project where delegates can put the skills they've learned into action. The workshops will build on each other so that by the end of the tour, delegates will have a better understanding of the roles they can play in creating change in their communities, as well as their relationships with others in those communities.
Q: Since not all delegates will be able to attend in person, what content will be available to access from home?
A: We will have four free mini-workshops that will be accessible through our website. We are also planning two community calls for the month of July, where delegates can call in from anywhere to discuss issues that matter to them and learn about what's going on in other areas. In August, all MLW On Tour delegates will have the opportunity to share their community projects on one last community call that will be open to everyone.
Q: What has the process of building this curriculum been like? What goes into shaping the content for each workshop?
A: I am so grateful for the other three members of the content team. This curriculum was truly a collaborative effort between the four of us, other members of MLW who assisted with the brainstorming process, and the two amazing high school students who came in to give us feedback. We started with the big picture, with questions such as: "What are the main takeaways we want for the delegates?" and "If we could offer literally any workshops in the world, what would they be?" From there, we grouped together similar themes and discussed what needed to be included so we could meet the main goals of the program as a whole.
Q: What can you tell us about the workshops you’re creating?
A: Our first workshop centers on understanding identity expression and how to effectively communicate one's passions with others. The next zooms out to focus on how delegates interact with the rest of their communities, the roles they play when advocating for change, and navigating the other resources available to them. The last workshop seeks to look at the larger systems affecting delegates' lives and tapping into the power they already have to achieve their goals. We hope these workshops, along with our free virtual workshops, can supplement the skills delegates have already developed as leaders in their communities.
Q: With just a small group of delegates participating in person in each region, will there still be opportunities for delegates from different regions to interact with each other?
A: While the structure of MLW On Tour does limit the opportunities for delegates from other parts of the state to get to know each other, I'm really excited about the opportunities presented by the regionally-based programs. Since each tour stop will bring delegates from more homogenous areas, it gives us the chance to make the community project truly based on their community and lets delegates share region-specific resources with each other. That being said, we hope delegates from all across the state can attend our virtual community calls, where that cross-community discussion and resource-sharing can still take place. We also encourage everyone to attend our end-of-tour community project presentations that will take place virtually at the beginning of August.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like us to know about MLW On Tour and the curriculum you are building?
A: I think this summer has really given us the opportunity to think outside the box and push the curriculum further with both the workshops and other programming. Young people today are often already doing work in their communities, so our goal is really just to assist them by introducing them to more concepts and tools that they can adapt for themselves.
Registration for MLW On Tour is open now. To register, visit: http://mlw.org/apply-2/.
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