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Ripple the leaders for life magazine

issue two

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contents [Numbers in slate represent stories written by program participants.]

4 8

Mission Statement and Contact Information

Appreciation By Kira Weiselberg

5 11

Director’s Message By Teresa Huggins

The Gift of CREW By Ike Parker

6 12

Staff and Editor’s Note

A Well-Balanced Schedule By Riley Spellman

7 14

So, you wanna be friends? By Nick Thompson


cov er photo g raphy b y h al as h er

Don’t Keep Yourself Down By Chris Brauer

17 27

Friendship By Kate Thompson

11 Results of Camp See 11 Success Stories

19 28

Passion By Alex Sessa

Perspective By Meg Hughes

21 30

Smile By Audrey Merck

Hope By Alex Bonanni

23 31

Appreciation By Tori LoRe

It’s a Process By Janet Butler

26 32

Support By Ally Gyder Reece

Upcoming Programs

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our mission Leaders for Life International empowers teens to fulfill dreams and achieve success. Our dynamic programs awaken inner potential and provide a foundation for authentic, inspired action. By attending our programs, teens learn to create life balance, achieve effortless academic success, manage time effectively, and craft action plans. Participants leave our programs as engaged leaders with the power needed to initiate and complete community projects. By increasing confidence and applying new leadership strategies, we forge trusting bonds between participants and staff.

contact us Email:




Leaders for Life International, LLC PO Box 44 Clinton, NY 13323


e! n i l n o s Visit u

at rLifeIntern o F s r e d a e L

By Teresa Huggins


ix months after our summer programs, I am awake with possibilities, reflecting on the heartfelt speeches that still resonate within me. As I recall how many teens received recognition by college admission counselors thanks to the lessons learned at Leaders for Life International, I realize the dream is expanding. There are opportunities ahead: teens speaking at national conferences, serving others while pursuing their passions, feeling comfortable being who they are. Can the dream continue? Yes! As I share this message, we are preparing for our first annual fund-raiser for L4L RIPPLE Foundation, a not-for-profit that will help us keep the dream of L4L Teen programs alive. When parents drop their teens off for a week of inspiration, they wonder if their child will enjoy the experience. When they pick them up, they don’t understand how the connections they made can be so deep. But at L4L, lifelong friendships begin with one conversation, one insight, and one college student inspiring them to consider another way. Can a week change a life? Yes! Can teens discover their potential within? Yes! In pursuing my passion to empower teens in order to create successful projects in their schools and communities, I didn’t know everything that would be involved, and to be honest, if I did, I may not have created this organization. It has been through the help of others that our programs have expanded, that more youths are being served, and that a legacy can be created. We talk about creating a “ripple of possibility,” staying true to yourself, and pursuing your dreams even if others doubt you, yet I didn’t understand the essence of “RIPPLE” until Kate Thompson explained it to me. She said: “Reaching Individual Potential, Promoting Leadership and Excellence” —and our definition of excellence is different than a grade on a report card. I didn’t realize that when Alex Schloop wanted to pursue his dream of being an editor for a magazine that he would create this magazine for us during his holiday break. I didn’t know that when I showed it to Ed Alberts, a businessman and friend, that he would strongly encourage me to pursue the creation of a not-for-profit to pursue grants and donations so our youths could engage in the many opportunities available to them. Thanks, Ed! While at a local event, one of our teens said, “I know I can go to camp for the next three summers, yet what programs do you have for college students? How can I still be involved?” I felt his desire to remain connected with the journey of leadership, and I thought to myself: why not create internships so we can have college students working with us throughout the year, be able to pay CREW so they can offset the cost of college, and invite teens and college students to pursue their passions? I walked away with an expansion of the dream, all due to one conversation, one

smile, and one heart that asked, “How can we find a way?” A new journey begins: expansion of programs, requests for businesses and individuals to become “living bridges” to our future, our youth, our leaders of today and our future. Imagine a world of heart-centered leaders, individuals who encourage collaboration in a company, educators who see the potential within every youth, and people willing to give back to their community in the spirit of making a difference. Imagine a future where teens will be comfortable to say no if the choice isn’t in alignment with their vision of themselves and who they want to be. Imagine schools where unity is commonplace, where individuals respect one another for their uniqueness, and where being respected means others care for a cause as much as you do. I was asked this fall to bring teens to a national conference as presenters, a fabulous opportunity, yet we weren’t able to pursue it. Funding was an obstacle; time to raise funds was a limitation. I let them know it wasn’t possible for this year, but guaranteed we would be there in 2012! Do we want to limit opportunities for teens to explore and discover more fully who they are, to focus on creating a wonderful future? Or do we want to find a way to inspire teens to reach their goals? Will you join us in this mission, creating funding so teens who have a dream can seek strategies for creating their vision at our programs? Will you join us in keeping the programs alive so we can give opportunities to inspirational college students and adults who are willing to work 18-hour days so your teens can feel connected to their strengths? Will you join us in being part of the L4L Ripple by contributing your expertise and sharing our message with others? We have a formula inspired by 11 teens to express how an ideas spreads: 1 + 1 = 11. If there is a dream, there is a way. If you ask others to support you, results happen quickly. If you believe in your cause, others will join you. With you, this dream can expand so the questions become: how many teens can we accommodate? How many opportunities can we create throughout the year? How many lives will be touched? This summer, we created a day camp for middle school students at Hamilton College so our teens can have more opportunities to use their skills, and the colleges they apply to will be curious about their unique experiences. We will be traveling to Colorado and experiencing a sunrise hike, a new perspective on life. As you read the stories in this magazine, celebrate our teens who are comfortable sharing their messages, who are willing to be real so others can learn, and who are creating a different future. To all of our CREW, we thank you for sharing your time and talents so others can dream big! Look for our CD filled with original music in the fall of 2012! • t h e r ippl e ∙ issue t wo


Staff Teresa Huggins / director

alex schloop / editor

ana giovinazzo / copy editor

Special Thanks to Hal Asher for his beautiful photography, all the leaders and CREW for their inspirational pieces, and all the parents and community members who support our programs.


photo by d on na muc k s

Editor’s Note Leaders for Life International is all about becoming the leader of your own life and living authentically while rooted in personalas opposed to positional-power. Through the past six years, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to experience our programming from both participant and staff perspectives, and if I have to tell you: this is a truly and profoundly transformational program. Leaders for Life has shown me that I can live fully in my passion, and this magazine is a testament to that. I remember coming-reluctantly-to my first Leaders for Life camp back in 2005: I was the shy one in the corner who didn’t quite understand why we had to sing silly songs. The CREW showed me that I can achieve whatever I desire, without exception. Now I’m able to show teens that they can do the same. Exciting new opportunities are approaching as the not-forprofit Leaders for Life RIPPLE Foundation launches and grows. This foundation will provide funding for teens to experience leadership training locally and nationally and pursue their dreams. We couldn’t be more excited about the developments that lie ahead. • Alex Schloop is a junior at Wells College, where he served as the first male member of student government and currently runs a magazine he founded in his first semester.

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So, you wanna be friends? By Nick Thompson


he subject of friends has always been of great importance to me, as friendship is a skill I have been perfecting my entire life. “The beauty of the word ‘friend’ is that it is so ambiguous,” Joseph Epstein states in his book, Friendship. Now, what does this mean? What is vague about friendship? Epstein goes on to say, “Friendship does not arise out of necessity, but out of preference.” These statements connect how a person chooses and extends himself for the necessity of a friend. The notion of needing friends is often pulled from the media. We, as a society, are constantly bombarded by television and the concept that a friend can help you reach that aspiration of being a complete individual. As evidenced by our School Union, having a friend or a group of friends is necessary not to be a social outcast. By joining these groups or cliques, we join the school pyramid defined by our peers. We choose our friends by mutual interests and compassion, selecting people who support us and accept us for who we are. We can have as many friends as we want, but only a few will be our best friends. This is where friendship can become vague. How do we establish a true friend? A true and genuine friend is not worried about the way you act. You are ready to help each other in times of need, and you are able to expose your innermost feelings and nature without worrying what he or she will think about you. True friends will not manipulate you or exploit your weaknesses. As true friends, we forgive and support each other even when it hurts us. A true friend is not judgmental or critical. He or she comes to our aid during troubled times, standing by us even if the whole world is against us. True, mature, and genuine friendship does not happen right away. It needs time, mutual faith, and trust based on selfless actions, shared thoughts and feelings, and acceptance of one another without judgment and criticism. The ambiguity of the word “friendship” allows it to be

defined in many ways and can therefore be hard to articulate. People may refer to someone as a friend, but that person might only be an acquaintance. The important thing is being aware of these degrees of friendship to recognize which of the people in your life are true friends. Having friends can eventually aid in forming other connections such as romantic and professional relationships. In the meantime, friends give us outlets for our opinions and feelings, help us feel included, and create a network of people with whom we can share stories, information, and feelings. We may get into fights from time to time, but we solve our problems through heartto-heart talks in order to establish true connections and create friends for life who are extensions of our being. •

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Appreciation By Kira Weiselberg


photo by hal asher

lesson learned ///////////////


any of my childhood memories revolve around my grandmother, who used to stay with my older brother Jeremy and me when my parents took vacations. Thanksgiving always meant a trip down to Queens to the home my father grew up in, and then traveling to Long Island to see my Aunt Lora and the whole family. I was Grandma’s only granddaughter, and, according to her, the favorite. I was also the littlest child in the whole bunch. I grew up in a “half ‘n’ half ” home; my mother is Catholic and my father is Jewish. Going down to New York City was the cultural opposite of going to Pennsylvania to visit Mom’s family. Daddy’s family is a stereotypical Jewish family from the city, and I loved it. But all that was taken from me. My parents announced they were “separating for a short while” when I was in the fourth grade. This separation turned out to be due to an affair on my dad’s part, leading to a divorce and a whole new family for me, including a stepmother and three stepsiblings. This change also led to something else—no more visits to Grandma’s house. For Thanksgiving, I traveled with my mom and brother to family friends’ houses, and then went from there to my dad’s house, where he was a host to about fifty people. Grandma only called Daddy, and whenever we talked, she told me I needed to “start behaving” and forgive my father for what happened. My aunt and uncle stopped sending birthday cards. I felt isolated from the family I grew up with. I don’t come from a big family, so losing half of it was epic. In February of 2007, I was invited to go down to New York with my dad, stepmother, and younger siblings to see Grandma. She was very sick in the hospital. I took the opportunity to go and forgive her—and myself. Before we left, it started to snow heavily, as is typical for Upstate New York weather. But when it became hard to see the roads, my dad turned back and we stayed the night at his house. I was very angry. The way I saw it, he was taking my weekend from me. The next morning, I told him to take me home. And he did. Grandma Ruth died in May of 2007, and I never had the chance to see her before she did. All she knew is that I was selfish and would not go down to see her. I never once stopped regretting what I did, but I have come to terms with it. At the funeral, I made peace with Grandma and with myself. What I did was not the correct thing, and I know I could have fixed the situation with a phone call or a card. I never want anybody to feel what I felt after hearing the news of Grandma’s passing; of course I felt sorrow, but I also felt pure guilt, with a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I want to share the gift of living with no regrets. Never look back on something and regret the decision. I hope my story reaches out and touches whoever reads it. Reconnect with somebody; you never know when they’ll leave you. I never told Grandma how much it meant to visit her and how much she meant to me. She was the only grandparent I ever knew. Every day, I take the time to tell at least one person that I appreciate them. I hope I can change at least one person’s outlook and help them do the same. If I can, I have done my part to help change their life and change the world. • t h e r ippl e ∙ issue t wo


“We never imagined a camp having such a positive effect on his confidence and character.� Parents of program participant


photo by hal ash er

The gift of CREW

An administrator’s look at its effectiveness and potential By Ike Parker


ecoming a member of Leaders for Life CREW and actually serving as a CREW member both at Hamilton College, New York, and Camp Cheley, Colorado, restored and refreshed my joy of being a school administrator. The experiences reminded me as to why I had given years of my own life and training to lead school and education programs. It isn’t the budget, the work with the boards, the continual shuffling of schedules, or the buildings, grounds, fields, and events. It’s the youth, the students, the leaders among us and the empowering of them to lead us, to draw out the best from us and see them access that for their own discovery and use. That’s what the work of school administration is all about. If one loses the contact with this force and source within each youth leader in one’s presence, one loses the true value and purpose of school administration. The word CREW, as defined by L4L, stands for Creators of Real Experiences Within. That’s what the work of educators is all about: creative persons creating real life experiences, not just in the minds of students, but also within them. L4L involves a process through which leadership for the work done within the camp week quickly moves from CREW to the youths themselves. CREW creates the atmosphere of support that allows the strengths within each youth (called leaders) to emerge. The leaders may then take proactive steps towards collective knowing and learning among themselves. CREW uses its knowledge and understanding in a particular subject or area of interest to open up the process and provide some materials for the leaders. CREW gives them a challenge, steps back, and watches as leaders create amazing results in very short periods of time. Leaders take responsibility and draw from the best they have to share. They claim their knowledge, their gifts, their power, and create together. I was amazed at the transitions that took place within each leader in a matter of a few short hours in the atmosphere created by the CREW. By the end of both camp weeks, the leaders were transformed, and when they left, they were more confident, more clear about what they wanted to accomplish and where they were headed next in their journey. What I experienced with these leaders taught me to listen more intently to them and to discover their rich longing to emerge. One young lady, speaking before all of us, shared her vision for a school setting in which

the students set the curriculum and faculty responds to their interests. Now imagine that for a moment. Yes. I know, at first it might seem that this would create utter chaos. But then imagine a faculty, secure enough in its knowledge of subject matter that it could handle the challenges of youths respectfully asking questions with a genuine free curiosity about things that were most significant to them. Imagine youths being led to explore and discover the answers to those questions by faculty who are skilled at creating real experiences that make knowledge of the subject matter of great value and practical use. Imagine youths as leaders, capable of taking control of the learning process and helping to engage other students in it. Imagine youths making a difference in getting facilities updated as they take on the boards and generate the funds. There are infinite possibilities. As I listened to the L4L leaders and CREW share their accomplishments and visions, I learned that these possibilities I’m describing are already happening. They occur in places where Leaders for Life youths have been taught to believe they can make a difference rather than despair in what is; they have been taught to act rather than complain, to lead rather than blindly follow, to challenge rather than just accept, and to overcome prejudice by crossing the lines that divide. These leaders are among your students, and they can be developed by attending Leaders for Life events. You and your faculty can be trained to develop these youths and experience the wisdom and wealth they possess. Join the CREW and imagine the world transformed as these leaders experience a place where they are respected and their gifts are valued. Ike Parker is an experienced school administrator and educator, having served twenty years in both public and private schools and having taught students from kindergarten through college as well as special education. He currently provides training to equip and empower individuals and their relationships through creative educational opportunities that awaken their purpose and potential. He serves on L4L CREWs and training. He is the founder of BrookSong Center through which he provides his services. He is the author of Willie, The Caterpillar Who Refused to Quit (Children’s Book), and Be The Experiment. • t h e r ippl e ∙ issue t wo


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A well-

balanced schedule By Riley Spellman

Some people wonder, “Which came first: the chicken or the egg?” New high school students tend to wonder, “Which comes

first: activities or academics? And how can both possibly fit into one day?” There are 31,536,000 seconds in a year. The need for sleep takes up one-third of your time, leaving you with 21,024,000 seconds. Our need to quench our hunger and thirst demands about 2 hours a day, which further reduces our number to 18,496,000 seconds. Now consider the fact that our summers are free to us and are not included in school activities, so their time must be eliminated; this leaves us with 13,960,000 seconds. Then school takes up about 6 hours per school day, which is 5/7 per week, leaving us with 9,726,400 seconds. With holidays, there are only about 170 true school days in a school year. Plus, we must leave time to bathe, crawl down the staircase in the morning, drive ourselves to and from school, chat with our friends, and stroll around aimlessly, so that combined leaves us with a sum of 3,600,000 seconds of activity time in a typical school year. That’s not a lot. What shall you do with those seconds? There are three different categories of activities: sports, music, and social. Sports include football, cheerleading, soccer, tennis, hockey, cross-country, track and field, swimming, skating, bas12

ketball, volleyball, color guard, bowling, golf, lacrosse, baseball, softball, and others. Music includes activities such as chorus, band, orchestra, plays, and musicals. Social activities include chess club, Model UN, Amnesty International, newspaper, book clubs, National Honor Society, math club, school council, yearbook, dance committees, and numerous others. Let’s assume each activity takes up about 400,000 seconds. That gives you enough time to participate in nine activities. However, don’t make the mistake of not putting academics first. For a C, one might use 400,000 seconds, a B may require 800,000 seconds, and an A could require 1,200,000 seconds, taking the place of three activities. That leaves six activities available throughout the school year. Being well-rounded is essential in today’s society, so it may be necessary to drink from all the fountains of the school (sports, music, and social groups), while keeping a steady, solid grade point average. Now, what should you choose? All your friends are playing golf, and your mom thinks Amnesty International will look good on your college transcript. Your French teacher is a coach, so he keeps trying to convince you to play softball, but you have always had a desire to try volleyball. And let’s not forget your significant other is in the book club. So what do you choose? How can you

decide? Why can’t there be more seconds in the day so you can do everything? Throughout my four years in high school, I have found a simple and effective way to organize my schedule to fit all the activities I love while also managing to squeeze in some down time for rest and relaxation. I’m an expert in the art of modifying and morphing agendas to schedule perfection. Thus, with a few scheduling tips, I can assist you in choosing which activities to say “yes” to, and when to say “so long.” Balance is the key. First, take pen and paper and make a list. This list should have all of your favorite after-school activities that you have ever participated in. Next, I suggest adding a sub-list of activities that you would care to try, and the reason for the interest in the activity. Make note of the season each activity takes place and any of those activities that overlap a season. The starting point of the list will be a great referral when decisions become complicated. Now, the highlight and asterisk step, the most important part, involves notating those activities you have been a part of the longest, and then starring the activities that mean the most to you. Friends, coaches, or climate should not affect this early process. Your selection process is now made easier. Make a rough draft of a schedule, marking when each activity takes place. Next to

each activity, scratch and scrawl the pros and cons, eliminating any activities that may overlap and remembering not to bunch all activities into one season. Keep in mind that this is now where friends and enemies, good coaches, and great advisors should influence your decision. From my experience, friends shouldn’t be the deciding reason to join a group, but if they help you widen your path, go for it. I only started cross-country because my friends were running and I had no other fall sports, and it eventually became one of my favorite pastimes. Your list should now be covered with pluses and minuses. That’s good. That means you’re almost there. Now, rewrite this schedule, weigh the pros and cons, and think. And if you can’t reach the decision for yourself, you can use two options for further assistance. First, consider the expenses for the activities you’re choosing between. For example, hockey gear costs more than basketball sneakers. The other option is to ask family or friends for help. They’ll know what you really want, even if you don’t, and they can usually help you choose. When you get everything set in stone, make another, cleaner schedule and stick to it. It will help you for the next four years, or rather, the next 31,536,000 seconds. • t h e r ippl e ∙ issue t wo


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 Don’t keep yourself down By Chris Brauer


e all go through uncomfortable experiences. It could be public speaking, acting in a play in front of strangers, or any number of other things. Even though experiences like these may be difficult, they are necessary. Facing our fears challenges us to get out of our comfort zone. It’s in these moments, these times that test our fortitude, that we unlock the one thing that we all strive to find: our true potential. There are many of us that detest putting ourselves out there and don’t think we should ever do it, but isn’t it worse to never try—to let fear determine what we do or whom we become? The process of liberating yourself from fear or self-doubt isn’t an easy one. It takes time and, most of all, determination. In the summer of 2007, I started my journey at a public speaking camp. I was never comfortable speaking in public or being in front of a lot of people, so my aunt sent me to this camp to improve my abilities and confidence. That week, we did improvisational speeches. I can’t remember ever being more nervous in my life. At times, I wasn’t sure if I should be angry that my aunt roped me into it, or if I should be thankful for the opportunity to better myself. Even though it wasn’t my idea of how I wanted to spend the first week of summer vacation, by the end of the week, I made great friends, learned a lot, and was pretty good at giving speeches. But like everything, that’s not the end of the story. I


realized that growth and facing my fears is a lifelong process. In 2009, I was fortunate to participate in a teen leadership camp (Leaders for Life) in upstate New York. Again, my aunt had roped me into another “growth opportunity.” Leaders for Life connects teens from around the country. It ignites potential and challenges teens to get out of their comfort zone and to go a step above, to help them grow. The program helps countless teens overcome their fears or insecurities; I was one of them. At the beginning of the week, I was shy and more than a little nervous. After six days, some silly camp songs, and conversations with a few people sharing stories, I was completely different. It’s hard to imagine that someone as quiet as I was would ever get beyond my insecurities, but these experiences have helped me to find my voice. Now I’m outgoing, talkative and, on occasion, loud and a little eccentric. After school started, I began doing things I never thought I would do in my life, such as acting in musicals, joining clubs, and volunteering for community service. Taking a step out of your comfort zone is pretty scary, but well worth it. My journey took me to places that I never could have imagined going. It’s the hard stuff that makes the victories all that much sweeter. Hopefully your journey will take you to your dreams as mine did. •

“I came to this camp to improve my leadership skills, but I left with more self-confidence and a whole new outlook on life. This camp taught me to believe in myself.” Program participant

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“The bonding of school leaders made a marked difference in the cooperation of diverse groups in the school. We had great new ideas generated and put into place because of the thinking and planning at the camp. Our school spirit has never been better, and it is due to the energy begun with our leaders at this camp.� Administrator, Syracuse


photo by t er e sa h ug g i ns

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friendship By Kate Thompson


riendship. Growing up, no one ever really tells you how powerful one simple word can be. However, as the years go on and you learn and grow as a person, that one word becomes one of the most important. As a high school senior, I have been fortunate enough to experience many strong and fulfilling friendships. If there is one thing I have learned over the years, it is that friendships, though complicated, are one of the most important tools to becoming a better person. One of my most vivid memories growing up was when I learned how to lie. I was young, around nine, and had just broken one of my mom’s favorite water pitchers. When she asked me if I knew what happened to it, I simply said no. It was then that I realized that adults, though older and seemingly wiser, can’t read your mind or see into the past. At the time, I thought this was the greatest thing ever. However, over the years, I have had friends who have taught me otherwise. There is simply nothing worse

than being caught in a lie, especially by someone you care about. This, I had to learn the hard way. After being confronted many times and feeling that knot in my stomach when I knew I was being false, I had an epiphany. I decided that I could either lie my way through my problems or face them head on and tell the truth, no matter how difficult it seemed at the time. Obviously, we all know which one is the easier route. It wasn’t until I went to Leaders for Life at Hamilton College in 2009 and experienced one of the groups’ tranquility that I discovered the harder route in life is almost always the right one. It was then that I decided to always be honest even if that means hurting someone’s feelings. As James Morrison says, “The truth hurts and lies worse.” I was lucky to be able to learn this lesson before I headed out further in my life’s journey. Though there are many instances I wish I could take back, the only thing I can do now is learn from them and use those memories to guide me in my future. Another lesson I t h e r ippl e ∙ issue t wo


“Be who you are, love

who you are, and stay true to who you are.”

was able to learn through friendships is that time is precious. People these days seem to be infamous for saying things like, “Okay, I’ll do it in a minute!” or “It can wait until tomorrow.” For some, these statements are true, and they really will do it tomorrow, but for many (including me), they couldn’t be more false. I am generally a lazy person. I’m someone who isn’t willing to put in the work for something I am not passionate about. In some cases, this can be rewarding because I seem to take all of that unused effort and invest it into the things I am passionate about. When it comes to friendships, I was the same way. Growing up, I have always had a best girl friend and a best guy friend. Both, however, were always changing. Because I would put all of my eggs in the same basket, I experienced very strong and intimate relationships. These people became a piece of me and I became a part of them. As I have gotten older, these relationships have only gotten more meaningful and passionate. Some say that I am an idiot for investing so much into this handful of people over the course of my life, but I think that I am so blessed to have been able to experience such amazing friendships. Some of these people I have met through camp, some through school or sports; some I am still extremely close with, and some I am not. After attending Leaders for Life at the Cheley Camps in Colorado this past summer, I learned a very important lesson. You were put on this earth to live for yourself. At the end of the day, when you are lying in bed, looking at the ceiling, it is just you. If you can’t be passionate about yourself and what makes you you, there is no way you can genuinely fulfill the needs of someone else. However, when you love yourself and have someone you care about who shows that they need you, don’t wait until tomorrow; take the time to be there for them. The time will come when you need help, and if you have made the effort to be there for a friend, that friend will make the time to be there for you. Time 18

is precious and doesn’t last forever, so take the time you are given with the people you love and spend it knowing that tomorrow is never certain. Thanks to camp, I have learned when to put myself first and when I need to sacrifice for the ones I love. Yes, it can be challenging, but there is nothing worse than losing a friend, and nothing better than holding onto another. Learning how to monitor my time has taught me what I find to be the most important lesson of friendship. Be who you are, love who you are, and stay true to who you are. I have learned that with these three things, you will not only find happiness, but you will find and keep the friends with whom you will share bonds forever. When you are able to express yourself honestly and openly, present friendships will bloom, new friendships will be born, and friendships that may not be genuine will be pushed aside. This leaves you with nothing but love and happiness, knowing that there are people in your life who appreciate you for who you are and want to help you grow into the person you are meant to become. Having been to camp for two years, I have been able to experience firsthand the feeling of knowing people who love the person you are. Acceptance, comfort, and trust are only three of the many characteristics that define a meaningful friendship. It wasn’t until camp that I realized no friendship is real unless both participants are being themselves. I have been fortunate enough to be blessed with amazing friends who love me and support me in all that I do. Anyone who lives true to themselves will find friends that will stay in their hearts forever. Life lessons can be learned in some of the most unexpected places. Thanks to friendship, I have learned some of the most important ones. Be honest, invest your time wisely, and most importantly, be yourself. With the power, love, and support of those around you, there is nothing you can’t achieve. •

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By Alec Sessa


oing into seventh grade, I achieved the two main goals I set for myself: I got into Christian Brothers Academy and made the AA Syracuse Stars hockey team. It was hard to balance a new private school and one of the best hockey teams in the state. One day at practice, I felt sick and decided that I needed a break. The next day, I found out that I had mononucleosis, which causes exhaustion and enlarges your spleen to the point that if you fall, it could rupture and you could die. Since I had to quit when I got sick, I didn’t play for the rest of the year. Even though I had a great love for hockey, I decided not to play again because I was out of practice. This ended my hockey career for life. But even without hockey, I had another passion: skiing. Thanks to my dad’s enthusiasm, I was on skis ever since I was three years old. I eventually picked up ski racing, which was fun at the time, but I would get bored in between my races. That’s when I began freestyle skiing. I couldn’t stand how good it felt when I rode away from a trick or looked over my shoulder while going backward. Racing was still enjoyable, but nothing could beat freestyle skiing. The only competition was within myself; it was me versus my potential. I found that this was what I loved to do and looked into summer ski camps. At Windells Camp in Mount Hood, Oregon, I learned more in one week than I could have in a whole season. I saw my potential as it rose before me. I loved it more than anything, and it made me want to pursue a career in skiing. I then found out about Windells Academy, a year-round, three-semester ski academy where I could do schoolwork as well. Before I left for Leaders for Life, I asked my mom about it. She said if I worked hard for it, I might be able to go. This made me so excited. If I got good grades, I would be able to go during the summer semester next year. It would be hard to achieve, but anything is possible. If I achieved my goals for CBA and the Syracuse Stars, why couldn’t I achieve this? I can. I can achieve anything I want to. •

“I can achieve anything I want to.” t h e r ippl e ∙ issue t wo


“It’s as if camp provided the MiracleGro for her to blossom into the person she was meant to be.” Parent of participant


photo by hal ash er

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Smile By Audrey Merck

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Mother Teresa Being misunderstood, or feeling as though you are, is probably the worst emotion possible for a teenager in high school. For such a crucial time in a person’s life, uncertainty and a lack of self-confidence can lead to destruction. The good news, however, is that realizing you’re misunderstood can lead to a beautiful climax of self-expression. During sophomore year in high school, I thought I finally had my personality and the personalities of my friends all figured out. I was wrong. Around my friends, I was outgoing and happy-go-lucky. But when I was in the halls and in class, I unknowingly gave off the wrong vibe. After wondering why classmates never approached me, I began to feel hated. I was unsure of myself and others, and I held onto a spiteful attitude. My wake-up call was when an acquaintance of mine flat out told me that she hated how I thought I was too good to talk to anyone in class or in the hallways. Ouch. It was time to change that. After realizing that I wasn’t the victim but that others around me were, I came

to the conclusion that I needed a selfevaluation. If my peers thought I was stuck-up and in my own world, it was up to me to change that. But how? The honest truth is that in my high school, you can’t just dive into a new friendship with someone from a different clique or a different side of town. So, I decided to break it down simply. I would smile. If someone was crossing me in the hall, I’d smile. If another student caught my attention in class, I’d smile. My mother taught me that not only does everyone smile in the same language, but that a smile is a gift that keeps on giving. Eventually, those smiles turned into “hellos,” and the “hellos” into “How’ve you been?” By making a simple connection with everyone I came in contact with, over some time, I was able to change how I was viewed by others and myself. To make a difference in life, you don’t have to be extravagant. All it takes are good intentions, love, passion, and a smile. •

t h e r ippl e ∙ issue t wo


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photo by hal ash er

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appreciation By Tori LoRe

t h e r ippl e ∙ issue t wo


I am happy that I have a loving and supportive family.


always known that I was adopted. Ever since I was able to understand it, my mother and father have openly discussed the adoption with me. Growing up, my parents told me that I was adopted because my biological mother and father were unable to take care of me, and I have always accepted that as truth. As I got older, though, I became more curious about where I came from. I would often feel like an outsider because I didn’t know my real parents. One day in 2009, I searched for my biological mother on MySpace. I found her, and to be honest, she wasn’t at all what I had expected. Looking through her page, I found that I had a lot more siblings than I thought. I contacted my biological brother, and the information he gave me was much more than I could handle. I am the type of person who would put anyone and anything before myself, so as my brother told me about the things that had happened to him, all I wanted to do was help. My mother and father discovered that I was in contact with my biological family and became extremely worried. They were afraid that I would want to leave my current life to be with my biological family again.


In an attempt to protect me, my mom and dad changed my phone number and made me delete my MySpace so that I wasn’t able to talk to anyone in my biological family. It felt like a slap in the face, and I was very angry with them. Now I realize that they were just trying to help. They didn’t want me getting worried and being stressed about my biological family. What they didn’t know, though, is that I love my life and where I am now. I am grateful for my biological parents and I respect that they gave me up for adoption so I could have a better life with more opportunities. Though I love my biological parents, I am happy about where I am and would never leave. I have come so far in my life, and I would never give that up. I am in a good place with a lot of supportive people. My parents and I have come to an understanding: I will be able to go and meet my biological family for the first time when I am eighteen. Though I still think about my biological family, I am happy that I have a loving and supportive family. At times, I may be curious about what my life would be like if I were never adopted, but I’m glad that I was. So thank you, Leilani and Mark, for letting me live a life filled with wonderful opportunities. •

t h e r ippl e ∙ issue t wo


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support by Ally Gyder Reece

If you know me, you know that I’m super excited about almost everything in my life. If you really knew me, you’d know I also have my moments of major depression. In August of 2005, my father died. He was never a big part of my life, but when I found out he was gone, there was a huge hole inside of me. I never talked much about his death until the summer of 2008, when I experienced my first Leaders for Life camp. Leaders for Life helped me go down inside myself and really think about what I had lost when my father died. When I finally talked about him, three years of suppressed emotion came pouring out of me. The words came to me, and the tears flowed like an endless waterfall. The power I felt after my talk was amazing. When I looked around at all the faces—some tear-streaked like mine—I knew I had all of their support and I felt the powerful emotions of everyone around me. The following summer, I went to Leaders for Life again. I was so excited to see 26

my old friends and make new ones, but about a week before I left for camp, my aunt called to tell me her mother died: her mother, my grandmother, my father’s mother. I felt like pieces of myself were disappearing before I could put myself completely together. I left for camp and carried on as though nothing had happened. When it came time for the heart talks again, only one thing came to mind—my grandmother. The heart talk was the same day as the funeral, and I was crying before I even opened my mouth. I choked through the tears to get my story out, and once again, when I looked out and saw the faces of my friends, I felt the incredible power of what a strong emotion can do. In 2010, I attended my third Leaders for Life camp. I’ve moved on from the deaths of my father and grandmother, but there are other family members whom I never really met who have passed. I never knew what to feel about them, and I don’t know if I ever will. Unless you really knew me, inside and out, you would never know. •

eleven results of camp 1 7

Tara presents to the Board of Education and secures new bathrooms for her school.

Connor learns to compose and writes a symphony.

2 8

DeVante rallies his community to run a car wash for our troops.

A group of twelve teens present at a national leadership conference.

3 9

Alex earns a leadership scholarship for college.

Lindsey reaches thousands by sharing a simple token of gratitude.

4 10

Rachel follows her dream of forming a nonproft: “Become a COW: Citizen of the World.”

Megan wins a Rotary scholarship to study in Japan.

5 11

Erika follows her passion to sing and now shares her gift with friends and family.

Kristen creates a project involving over 100 students and teachers.

6 *

Students join together to support the Children’s Miracle Network.

These are only eleven examples of many amazing things our leaders have accomplished. t h e r ippl e ∙ issue t wo


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Perspective by meg hughes


aking up, I used to think about how my day might turn out. I used to hope that no one would look at me in the hallways and that the teacher wouldn’t call on me in class. I wanted to blend in and not seem too loud, too quiet, or too different. However, this was all before attending Leaders for Life International summer program. School and education hasn’t always been my thing. High school as a whole was not always my thing. During my freshman year, I wasn’t involved in school activities because I thought no one would want me to be there. I was afraid to meet new people that were older than me that might not like me. I was afraid to be my potential me. From the outside, I appeared to have decent grades, friends, and a good personality; however, that was only from an external point of view. For me, high school created pressure—pressure to have good grades, pressure about colleges, pressure to be in a clique with the “coolest” people, and constantly being pressured to do drugs, alcohol, or party in general. High school was about being in sports, musicals, relationships, and being well28

liked. High school appeared to be everything. In high school, people forget that the small problems we face are nothing in comparison to what is going on in the real world. People would talk for days about a person’s party or who got suspended from school. In the moment, it all seemed so important. But in the bigger picture, none of that really was. Hardly anyone can look past high school and know exactly what they want their future to be like. In the meantime, high school seemed like forever. Four years was equivalent to a lifetime in my eyes. Little did I know that one presentation by Teresa at L4L would change the way I looked at high school forever. Teresa did a presentation at camp where she stretched out a tape measure, eighty inches long, signifying the average lifespan of eighty years. As she stretched the tape measure across the outdoor deck, she shared how the power of a moment in high school can influence a life and reminded us of the power we have as leaders to be conscious of what we say and how we treat others. The power of a comment resonates within each person long after

“After camp, I entered school confident, not afraid to be myself, and ready to create my own path.”

it’s said, and I realized how much I was letting other people’s opinions define who I was. I realized that even though I was an underclassman and wasn’t on a sports team, I could still be an active member at my high school. I decided that summer that my next three years at high school would be different. I made sure that I would be someone who was active in school functions, someone who was fun to be around, and someone who didn’t care what other people thought. When Teresa cut the tape measure into four-inch sections, signifying the four years of high school, the visual really made me think. Comparing the tiny four-inch section to the long eightyinch tape measure was amazing. Teresa’s point was clear: high school is only four years, and sure, those years are important at the time, but there are seventy-six other years that are full of other important memories. Because high school is such a short period of time, we don’t have to obsess about cliques, grades, and what people think of us. Rather, we should do the best we can and make ourselves happy. If those four years of high school

aren’t the happiest, we must remember that we have an average of seventy-six more to fulfill our dreams. When I entered this year of high school, my perspective shifted from a follower to a leader. I saw that I could be the best me and shine in school. As I entered my sophomore year, I was a different person than when I entered as a freshman. Last year, I entered insecure, timid, and desperate to be “popular.” This year after camp, I entered confident, not afraid to be myself, and ready to create my own path. By experiencing the Leaders for Life International program, I was able to join student council with confidence, become the sophomore class Vice President, help put on school activities, and be more open to new people. I was even on the committee that welcomed the upcoming freshman to high school, where I was a leader in touring the school, announcing the activities for the day, and greeting parents. Life changed for me because I knew I could help people that had the same high school problems as I did, and I could show them that everything was going to be okay with a dose of self-confidence. • t h e r ippl e ∙ issue t wo


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By Alex Bonanni


hen I was finishing up the sixth grade, my mom and I got into a lot of arguments. From what I can remember, most of these arguments were about how much I wanted to be “different” from everyone else. At the time, I felt that my parents didn’t accept me for who I wanted to be. I decided to experiment with self-mutilation, physically harming myself on purpose. It gave me a sense of relief and sometimes even reminded me that I was still alive. Seventh grade had started and I was in a whole new world. I always felt alone because I never reached out to anyone. I would find myself going to the guidance office a lot just so I could talk to someone about how I was feeling. When I told my guidance counselor I was cutting, she called my mom right away. My mom had no idea that I was doing this, and she didn’t know what to think about it. She was very concerned. I started going to therapy, where they diagnosed me with depression. I’m not too fond of labels, but this didn’t help because I felt like I was abnormal. I continued to hurt myself at least once a day. I never talked to my parents and began to distance myself from my brother and sister because I felt like they were all too good for me. The cutting continued, and it kept getting worse and worse every day. Eighth grade came about. The arguments and disagreements with my mother continued. At one point, I was so overwhelmed 30

with all of the feelings I was experiencing that I just wanted to feel numb. When I went to take my medication, I just kept taking pill after pill without stopping. My objective was not to end my life, but if I were to die, it wouldn’t really faze me. I told my father right away about what I had done, and he took me to the hospital. I was there for about five days before I was moved into a mental hospital. My parents visited me daily, and my brother and sister would come up to see me as well. I got cards in the mail every day from friends or family members. While I was there, I had a lot of time to think about all that I had and how badly I wanted to be home with my family. I realized how loved I was. I knew that I made a mistake, and I definitely learned from it. I transferred and started ninth grade at a new high school, where I made the basketball team and met new friends, one of which became my current best friend. I still had some setbacks where I used to cut every once in a while, but an ounce of hope kept me holding on. I’m in tenth grade now, and I’m doing better. If there is anything I can say to anyone who relates to my story, it’s that it will get better. It continues to get better. If any of you ever feels the urge to take your own life, please hold on. Reach out to someone. Everyone has a voice, and it will be heard. Do not give up. I promise you that it only gets better. Let your voice be heard. •

Expanded Awareness By Janet Butler


remember attending an event and being encouraged to invite a possibility. Indeed, this was an intriguing challenge. Imagine living each day believing in some unique way that you can feel lucky. Here is how the process unfolds: By finding a penny, I feel lucky and enjoy my day as a result. The longer I considered this possibility and held this belief, the more pennies appeared and the more I enjoyed my days. I exchanged penny stories with others, and they contributed similar experiences. My awareness expanded. I eventually noticed dimes had started presenting themselves more often. During a conversation, my friend said dimes were a sign of angels to her. I started to imagine my day as a series of special moments. More dimes appeared and I enjoyed more special moments. I am always excited to share my stories with others and observe as their awareness expands. I enjoy messages from others of similar findings. For example, one person shared with me how the number 44 was a symbol of a deceased loved one to them. Since hearing this story, I see this number often. You can trust these experiences happen every day if you pause long enough to notice. A series of traffic lights changing in my favor can make me feel lucky. The smile I receive from a stranger for whom I have held a door can bring me joy for most of the day. When I tell a person “It’s good to see you,” I wonder how many times this person repeats this simple nicety throughout the day, touching other people’s lives with a cheerful greeting. I invite you to expand your awareness through a unique sign or action that will create a special symbol for you. Consider enjoying each day through these signs. Allow them to become symbols. And always remember to share each special story with others and continue the ripple. • t h e r ippl e ∙ issue t wo


leaders for life ď‚š 2011 summer programs ď‚ş

middle school day camp

Join us as we have fun and increase self-confidence.

July 18-21, 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. / $325 Hamilton College, Clinton, NY

high school camps

Experience personal growth and forge friendships that will last a lifetime.

hamilton college, Clinton, NY July 10-15 / $795

camp cheley, estes park, colorado August 9-14 / $795 group discounts available

The Ripple: Issue Two  

The Leaders for Life Magazine

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