News: 9th MSC teens hold leadership summit
Story by Staff Sgt. Joseph Vine
HONOLULU — The 9th Mission Support Command Family Programs Office and the Army Reserve Child, Youth and School Services (CYSS) held a Youth Leadership, Education and Development (YLEAD) summit, here, March 17-21.
YLEAD is a leadership education and development summit, which brings together youth interested in developing their leadership skills and their awareness about different issues that affect military youth.
Thirty students from Hawaii, American Samoa and Alaska participated in the weeklong camp.
Travis McKinney, CYSS youth services specialist, and a team of adult leaders, coordinated the activities for the week. The summit combined community service, field trips and seminars to create a balanced learning experience for the teens.
“[YLEAD] helps youth form bonds in order to empower them as military teens,” McKinney said. “They also conduct teen-issue forums where they talk about issues, which affect today’s teens of military families, and they try to come up with solutions to solve the hurdles that come with being military dependents in such a diverse unit.”
Kaila, a 14-year-old resident of Oahu whose mother is a 9th MSC senior intelligence noncommissioned officer, said she was motivated and ready to take on new challenges during the summit.
“I hope to learn and increase my confidence and leadership skills to help me in my personal life,” Kaila said. “I get to meet different people and work on my communication skills, and that’s always good.”
“I came out here to lead the other teens in the right way and help them accomplish some of the things I did when I was a younger teen,” said Isaac, a 17-year-old from American Samoa whose father is an infantryman in the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry.
Honing leadership skills at YLEAD was foremost in his mind.
“It’s better to practice being a leader with people I don’t know,” Issac said, “because that way, I can really see my weaknesses and strengths.”
In addition to building leadership skills, the teenagers from across the Pacific were also involved in service learning projects during the five-day summit.
“I like that I’ve learned a lot about leadership, but we are also able to do community projects that give back,” said Alexis, a 16-year-old from Alaska, whose father is an engineer noncommissioned officer in the 297th Engineer Company.
While at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, the youth came together to help protect plants native to the Hawaiian Islands.
“Today we helped remove invasive species of plants that are endangering native plants,” said Alexis.
“It’s nice to contribute back to the island that I live on,” Kaila said, “and that I’m able to bond with other teens in the Army Reserve.”
Another focus of YLEAD is the connections teens make during the summit, said McKinney.
The 9th MSC is geographically dispersed and has units across more than 50 percent of the globe. As a result, Pacific Army Reserve youth from remote locations do not often get to meet and interact.
“This group of youths has really surprised me,” McKinney said. “From day one, they really connected with each other in a way I hadn’t yet seen. The kids are so close because they can relate so much to the different topics. These youths are all dependents of Reserve soldiers, so I think that they share a lot of the same experiences.”
Although this particular YLEAD summit only included teens from Hawaii, American Samoa and Alaska, there will be another YLEAD Summit on Guam in mid April.
“It will consist of 9th MSC youths from Guam, Saipan, South Korea and possibly Japan,” McKinney said. “They will do similar events, to include the outings, motivational speakers and service learning projects.”