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Cultivating Leaders Among Our Youth
“We talk about leadership a lot but we rarely help kids discuss it and produce it,” said Bags Brokaw.
Monday, January 4, 2021


Twenty-two high school juniors have a lofty mission as they embark on the second half of the school year.

They’re going to learn what it takes to be leaders.

The Lewis Scholars are part of a new Leadership Development program created by I Have a Dream Foundation-Idaho.

The students, many of whom come from low-income families, will learn public speaking and other communication skills, as well as critical thinking and problem-solving skills. And each will receive $1,000 upon high school graduation to apply towards post-secondary education.

“I was very fortunate in my youth in that I grew up in a very solid religious family and I had leadership roles in school and church,” said Brent Robinson, who chairs I Have a Dream Foundation-Idaho. “But I don’t think many of our kids have had experience being leaders so I wondered if we couldn’t come up with a program that would enable them to think of themselves as leaders by the time they graduate high school.  We threw in the scholarship money to give them a little more incentive to go on to college.”

Half of the students in the new leadership program are Dream Scholars who have been part of I Have a Dream Foundation-Idaho’s endeavor to provide a class of third-graders with tutoring and enrichment opportunities for the past seven years. But board members wanted to provide additional scholarships outside the core group, said Laura Rose-Lewis, executive director of the program.

“They decided to pilot a program to develop life and leadership skills to help students be successful,” she added. “We would like to expand this to serve more students if it proves successful.”

The participants were nominated by teachers and others based on their commitment to academic excellence, post-secondary and career aspirations, commitment to personal development, personal qualities such as honesty, kindness, being goal-oriented, hardworking and collaborative and demonstrating a willingness to help others.

They must commitment to perform a minimum 10 hours of community service this year and next.

Leading the program is Bayard “Bags” Brokaw, who served as director of College Counseling at Sun Valley Community School for seven years and has co-taught a course called “Exploring Leadership.”

Founder of Blackfly College Counseling, LLC, in Ketchum, he also is launching a pilot college aspirations program in partnership with Sun Valley Community School designed to build a college culture among rural students in Gooding County.

He is meeting with the Lewis Scholars, named for Ken Lewis who founded I Have a Dream Foundation-Idaho, a couple hours each month exploring such questions as “What is leadership?” and “What isn’t?”

“We’re not saying, this is the way it is,” he said. “Leadership is complex. Military leadership looks different from nonprofit leadership. And leadership doesn’t always lead from the front. It can lead from behind.”

Brokaw plans to bring in outside speakers, including community leaders, educators and policy makers, as he explores such topics as what it means to be a good collaborator and a good listener.

“Everyone can be a leader. You don’t need to be president of student body. You can lead in the classroom, you can lead by being an impactful citizen,” he said.

He also will strive to help the students find their voice and overcome shyness and fear of public speaking.

Brokaw expects the students to commit themselves to personal integrity and to discover who they are as they look at the traits they would assign themselves.

“A student may think, ‘I’m an introvert, but I have an artistic talent that could be beneficial to my group.’ Just something like that shows the complexity and the opportunity of what leadership means,” he said.

The students will also be charged with planning a community service project or fundraiser this spring.

“You can’t just talk about leadership. You’ve got to do it, you’ve got to practice it. We’ll carry out some sort of project of the students’ choice, then we’ll talk about what worked well, what surprised them about the process.”

Brokaw hopes the effort will reap dividends in a society that has become disillusioned with its leaders.

“We hope to teach that everyone has leadership qualities, that they can be compassionately effective leaders, that they can lead impactful purposeful lives, that they can make a difference in the world,” he said. “Some people are natural leaders; others just have to learn that they are leaders. It’s a skill that can be developed and it should be developed.”


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