Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Glute Squeezing? It Could Make You a Better Leader
Devan Perez learned how a strategically placed pause can add an exclamation mark to his public speaking.
Monday, June 7, 2021


Kat Vanden Heuval gazed upon the 15 teenagers in front of her.

"Close your eyes. Now bring your attention to your breath," she told them. "Mindfulness is the power of our mind to give nonjudgmental attention to our experiences as they unfold in present time. I'm not thinking about the next moment.

"I speak when I want to speak and i stop when I want to stop. I'm in charge of the timing, and that's power. That's control. Now, one, two, three, release. On the count of three, squeeze your pelvic muscles. Squeeze your glute muscles. One, two, three, release..."

Kat Vanden Heuval leads some of the young leaders through a mindfulness exercise.

Vanden Heuval is among several leaders in the community who have been tasked with helping to raise up the next generation of leaders. They've been working with 22 high school youth--many of them I Have a Dream-Idaho scholars--who have asked to be part of the pilot program that launched five months ago.

Some of the students have natural leadership qualities. Others may be shy, but they know leadership qualities can be developed. And they've learned they can't learn leadership qualities from a book.

"It's been like a team huddle," said Bags Brokaw, who oversees the program. "They come together once a month to grapple with what leadership is."

Students pondered the qualities essential in a leader and decided foremost were honesty and integrity. They got to be exposed to different types of leaders in the community and they examined their own skill sets. They discovered that collaboration is key, but they also learned that collaborating is hard work.

“Squeeze!” says Kat Vanden Heuval.

They've watched TED Talks and read Army Gen. Stan McChrystal's "Leadership in the Digital Age." And they've talked about personal leadership plans as they tried to formulate their No. 1 Superpower.

Be curious about stuff. Reframe problems. Be a cultural anthropologist--be observant and make connections, they were told.

And they've learned that effective communication is 7 percent knowledge, 38 percent voice and 55 percent visual expression.

Twelve of 22 said they had problems with procrastination. Others said they were terrified of public speaking.

Marilyn Giron is one of 22 high school juniors who asked to be part of the pilot leadership program.

"I learned how important eye contact is," said Marilyn Giron. "I also learned tips for public speaking, how not to procrastinate."

"It was an exciting opportunity to learn to be a better leader," said Devan Perez. "The skills I'm learning are not only good for college but for working after. Procrastination is a big thing with me. I've learned to take a deep breath to calm myself so I don't feel overwhelmed. I've learned to list goals. "

Laura Rose-Lewis, who oversees I Have a Dream Foundation, said many of the kids had identified public speaking as a skill they were eager to gain.


Kat Vanden Heuval shows how pushing harder doesn’t necessarily change someone else’s mind.

“The public speaking work Kat does is amazing and fun. It’s so important for kids to learn to find their voice with confidence for self-advocacy, presenting, leadership and relationships.”

While the program has been helpful, organizers have learned that the students have to meet more than once a month when the program resumes next fall. They need to have more group activities, more interaction with the community. They need to cultivate personal leadership projects.

"Some of the steps they've taken have been baby steps," said Brokaw. "But they're important steps."


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