The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

December 19, 2013

Leaders making a difference

OTTUMWA — Coming up with an idea may require a creative person. But doing something with that idea takes leadership.

That's something taught at the Ottumwa Leadership Academy, but many of the students already know that. They're leaders from around the area working to improve their ability to make things happen. Part of that skill set involves getting others to help put a project into motion by inspiring followers.

Organizations partnered with the academy push for a better society. But the leadership school's parent, the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, likes to see results. So students will learn by doing.

This class of the academy is taking action in four different ways. One group is starting "Youth Organizing for Leadership Opportunity." Rachel Dilling and Tish Reck say their group will encourage volunteerism in Wapello County. They like the Silver Cord program at Ottumwa High School, where students can wear the cord with their cap and gown when they graduate.

But some research turned up some interesting facts: In many counties, 25 percent of students complete their town's program. In Wapello County, the number is 7 percent. But Dilling and Reck looked deeper than that. It turns out students in Ottumwa require 400 community service hours to get their cord. Other schools give the cords out for as low as 150 hours.

Maybe there could be a tiered program, or maybe some businesses could get together and offer a scholarship. At the time of their conversation with the Courier, the groups were still working out details. There's another idea, too: Opportunity Day, where various organizations needing volunteers go to a high school and have displays or demonstrations showing students what they'd be doing if they spent hours doing community volunteerism there.

A second group is calling itself "Ottumwa United." Schuyler Black and Doug Anderson want to encourage more than action — they want to see a change in attitude, too.

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