Today’s teens are tomorrow’s leaders. Local programs like these are paving the way.
Anna Tramposch (left) and LaVeta Logan with the Arlington Teen Network Board
Best Buddies is a student-led movement that fosters one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Founded in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, the organization boasts nearly 1,500 chapters worldwide, including 10 chapters in Arlington, McLean and Falls Church schools. Through Best Buddies peer interaction, people with disabilities are able to secure rewarding jobs, live on their own, become inspirational leaders and make lifelong friendships. bestbuddiesvirginia.org
Since 2010, more than 250 Arlington juniors and seniors have participated in this program, which emphasizes philanthropy, community service and civic engagement. Students spend two weeks visiting local businesses and nonprofits for skills sessions focusing on professionalism, mentoring, cultural competency and facilitation. A “Philanthropy in Action” session tasks students with evaluating and choosing one local nonprofit as the recipient of a $1,000 grant from the Inter-Service Club Council of Arlington. The Class of 2015 chose Offender Aid & Restoration of Arlington (OAR), which helps individuals emerging from incarceration to rebuild and lead productive and responsible lives. http://leadercenter.org/programs/youth-program/
Middle and high school students become bonafide entrepreneurs in this class, which meets once a week from November through May at Marymount University. Students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch their plans to a panel of investors, obtain funding and ultimately launch and run their own legally registered companies. A national program with more than 100 affiliate sites, YEA! began in 2004 at the University of Rochester with support from the Kauffmann Foundation. arlingtonchamber.org/about_the_chamber/yea!.aspx
More than 60 area high school students participate annually in this statewide program designed to introduce students to the legislative process. Student-proposed bills are debated in committees and on the floors of the Senate and House of Delegates as participants assume the roles of senator, delegate, officer, lobbyist, reporter or underclassmen legislator. H-B Woodlawn student Salome Gongadze was elected Youth Governor for the 2016 General Assembly in Richmond. vaymca.org/programs/mga