BrainWise Taught at Rotary Youth Leadership Training Program

Posted On: August 22, 2018

Karen Loeb, Ed.D., an adjunct professor at the University of Denver who teaches leadership to Honors students there, generously shares her expertise as a Rotary volunteer. Active in the renowned Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) camps in Colorado, she saw a need to offer youth with physical disabilities the same opportunities for leadership training, within an environment that is ADA-compliant to meet their needs. Her Rotary club and later, the Rocky Mt. RYLA program, formed a partnership with an Easter Seals’ ADA-compliant camp in the Colorado Rockies. The innovative collaboration resulted in RYLA Plus, a week-long leadership training program that teaches leadership and teamwork skills to physically disabled teens.

Karen learned about BrainWise when she previously served as a RYLA senior counselor. The experience showed her how the 10 Wise Ways complemented and enhanced True Colors, a program that identifies four personality types and uses colors to represent leadership and teamwork styles, based on self-assessments. She describes teaching BrainWise and True Colors together as “putting two pieces of a puzzle together. It is an effective way to engage teens to learn about themselves and others and translate that knowledge to leadership and teamwork skills.”

BrainWise Taught at Rotary Youth Leadership Training Program
RYLA Plus Counselors and Conferees at Easter Seals Camp, Empire, CO

The action-packed, week-long conference is led by Junior Counselors, teens who have previously attended RYLA or RYLA Plus, with guidance from Karen and other Rotarians who are Senior Counselors. The counselors introduce and implement activities that put into action lessons on sharing, trust, emotions management, and problem solving skills. The week is spent reinforcing the lessons through practice and discussion, along with inspirational speakers who themselves have often overcome their own significant disabilities and/or describe ways to be effective, authentic leaders.

Speaker sessions are interwoven with team activities that allow campers to (unknowingly) develop their problem solving skills as a team. Typically, when an activity is finished, the debriefing session that follows includes questions relating to the fundamental lessons around leadership and teamwork. These sessions draw on the leadership learnings as well as the Brainwise teachings that include the 10 Wise Ways.

The counselors may ask questions about situations that made conferees go up their Emotions Elevator, or whether “lizard or wizard” brains and behaviors were being used in solving the team activity tasks. Discussions might include the emotions aroused and how they could be managed, as well as choices that were made, the consequences of behaviors, setting goals, and communication skills. Each participant also has a small Red Flag, and the flags are used throughout the week to indicate when campers detect they are moving up the emotional elevator.

The 10 Wise Ways are applied throughout the sessions, and customized to address specific behaviors during exercises. For example, in discussions on gossip and bullying, the counselors say that BrainWise provides language that helps the campers explain how they react and feel. Such language helps in many ways and gives the participants ways to describe issues and their feelings.

Karen says that 80% of leadership is emotional intelligence, and she finds that BrainWise helps campers understand their emotions and management of them, along with understanding the same in others on their team. As part of the RYLA Plus experience, BrainWise helps teach participants to manage these emotions, build relationships, and work as a team — skills that help build a foundation for leadership. These skills, and practice using them, are part of a comprehensive effort RYLA Plus uses to help participants learn how to focus on their abilities, not their disabilities, and use their leadership to help develop high performing teams.

This is the fourth year that BrainWise and True Colors have been core programs for the RYLA Plus curriculum. Karen is making national and international presentations on the project, and Rotary clubs in other states have expressed an interest in adding RYLA Plus to their youth leadership venues. The opportunities for replication and expansion include forming collaborations with agencies Easter Seals and other agencies. We will keep you posted!

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