Thirteen Montross Middle School students and four chaperones recently attended the GEAR UP sponsored CoolSpeak Leadership camp at Old Dominion University (ODU) on July 25 through July 27, 2015. CoolSpeak is a youth engagement company that provides speakers, programs and events geared toward motivating students and the professionals that guide them. According to CoolSpeak, they strive to provide inspiration so that learning takes place with the fun and inspirational events and allows each student to achieve their highest potential.
The three day program was entitled the “Power of Youth.” The focus of the camp was getting students to access the power that lies within them. By providing students with information and tips on how to access and maximize their power, they are prepared to face the world with confidence. CoolSpeak teaches the students that power is what you say; who you are; what you believe; what you know; what you are worth; who you know; what you do; what you say; and how you use it.
From the first moments upon arrival at ODU, the students were thrust into a fast paced learning environment beginning with a tour of the campus. All the students and counselors were then placed into their “family” unit. You stayed with your family for all activities. This is a good way to see how you can learn among others and develop leadership skills. Students and chaperones participated on such team building efforts as “Walking on a Volcano,” Hula Hoop circle, the Maze, Trust Circle, Pawnshop, and the building and tearing down of “The Mountain.” Each family also kicked off the first evening with presenting a skit for the groups.
Some of the exercises, like “The Mountain,” allowed students to explore the negative things that have happened to them in life and get rid of those feelings. This powerful exercise had a group of 150 students silently listening to the words and feelings of the lead facilitator, Carlos Ojeda, Jr. Mr. Ojeda and his dynamic team were blunt, funny, exciting, and powerful in their presentations to the youth. Among his CoolSpeak team was a former professional football player, a Harlem Globetrotter, a WWE wrestler, a couple of poets, and a writer. Additionally, on day three, some ODU students came and answered questions about attending college.
A highlight of the sessions was an evening game show on Sunday night. Students and chaperones went to a small center off campus where CoolSpeak had hired a professional group to come and do a dynamic game show themed program for the students. Complete with pulsating music, flashing lights, a dance floor, and seats for the audience, students competed for cash prizes while answering questions about college admissions, general math and science questions, and music video information.
Students were encouraged to write an “I AM” poem. Many of the students then presented their poems to the assembled students. After the tearing down of the Mountain, students were then asked to put down one word on the back of each of the poems that all the students had done. Students could then take this positive memento home with them to remind themselves of how important they are in this world of youth power.
Throughout the days at the camp, students were encouraged to use their journals. After they get home, they can use these as a point of reference and reminder of the skills that they had gained during the sessions.
Montross Middle School students who attended the camp included Gage Anderson, Will Bankhead, Adrianna Carter, Nekya Day, Jody Dean, Tenelle Fisher, Anthony Jones, Celene King, Diego Ramos, Craig Shepherd, Hazen Shryock, Tinya Thompson, and Aniyah Wise. Chaperones included Patty Long, Gear UP Director, Mary Jones, MMS, Stan Schoppe, W&L, and Aaron Sova, MMS.
Among the information shared by CoolSpeak was the great statement of what you believe about yourself. As Mr. Ojeda noted “Henry Ford is credited with saying, “whether you think you can, or think you can’t- you’re right.” Beliefs are powerful. Knowing what you believe can help you overcome stereotypes, bias and misconceptions. Believing in yourself can help you overcome the stereotypes, bias, and misconceptions people place on you and give you the power to overcome.”
This exceptional camp opportunity was made available to the Montross Middle School GEAR UP cohort by GEAR UP Virginia and SCHEV, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
By Patty Kelly Long