The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

June 12, 2014

Leading to a better community

OTTUMWA — Southeast Iowa has 20 more people who should work, and inspire others to work, to make good things happen.

The Ottumwa Leadership Academy uses hands-on practice to teach its students how to make a difference in the community. Those students and supporters turned out Thursday for a graduation banquet at Indian Hills Community College.

Dr. Ted Haas, one of the academy advisers, told the audience that working as part of a team is important in life, whether it's for business or a charitable effort. But there's another reason students were split into four teams: While they gain leadership knowledge and experience, Haas said, these groups develop community improvement projects.

Key speaker Marlene Sprouse said she's proud to see new leadership development experiences in Ottumwa. Sprouse is president of Indian Hills.

"Leadership doesn't necessarily come from someone who has been 'anointed'; sometimes, it's simply the ability to get people inspired or engaged," she told the Courier.

Good leaders work with others, Sprouse said, to get something done.

That was the focus at the Ottumwa Leadership Academy right from the beginning. Those community group projects aren't "theoretical" concepts the academy participants work on. These are real tasks, with goals they intend to achieve.

For example one of the four groups felt a good way to connect teens to the community is through volunteerism. The Silver Cord Program, which rewards high school students for volunteering, is a great program, academy participants said. It can create a sense of ownership that could create less desire for young people to leave the community behind when an opportunity to move arises.

But, explained group member Tish Reck, research into similarly sized schools had a much higher completion rate than Ottumwa High School in their respective volunteer programs.

There were differences in the programs with more involvement. The researchers couldn't help but notice that the other schools required high schoolers to put in 200 hours of volunteer effort. Yet Ottumwa High School required 400 hours just to wear that silver cord on graduation day.

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