{Academy of Leaders}

Recently, my Leader Advancement Scholars have traveled to the heart of Detroit, Michigan where they were given the opportunity to interact with the students of Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. As I was unable to attend this trip, I have decided to really look into what this place and trip is all about.

After doing some research, I have discovered that Jalen Rose Leadership Academy is a high school based purely on leadership focused courses and activities, creating a positive and encouraging enviornment for these students. From a short list of courses and staff, Jalen Rose has what seems to be a fairly small and undiscovered school that needs more support to continue growing each year.

It appears to me that because of how small the academy is on it’s own, Jalen Rose could have so much more potential to allow more opportunities and growth in the students and community. From my understanding, the school is highly underrated in the Detroit area, as a facility like this one could impact the city of Detroit in so many beneficial ways. If Jalen Rose were given the attention and expenses they needed they would be able to have more opportunities to volunteer and attend leadership conferences or trainings similarly to LAS and CMU’s Leadership Institute.

An example of Jalen Rose not being at all able to reach their fullest potential is their lack of sports. Sports in grade school is an important aspect of physical activity and motivation to remain competitive and hardworking. A school without sports teams can really have a lack of this motivation to prioritize physical activity. Studies show that the emphasis on high school sports teams in America create a community based enviornment that allows students and faculty members to come together to represent their school in a way that academics cannot do. Having no sports teams at Jalen Rose Leadership Academy only creates a gap between the academics and the community.

In my opinion, schools such as Jalen Rose that are poorly funded for, have so much wasted potential. I say this sympathetically as I hope the world for this institute. Places and facilities in communities like Detroit are highly underrated especially when places like Jalen Rose are attempting in so many ways to better the community and make a difference for the better. I personally hope to someday be able to help communities like Detroit to pick themselves up and keep staying positive the way that academies like this one does each day they come to work or school. I truly do wish I could have experienced this school and I am overwhelmed to be able to visit next year with a bit of background on the situation.

While I have asked many students in my cohort about the types of activities they got to do while on the trip, they all seemed to begin with meeting their groups. You see, before going on the trip the cohort was divided into “families” that consisted of about 7 member of the 2016 cohort, and one or two members of cohorts above us to lead the group with a bit of experience on the trip. These families then got to interact with small groups of students in the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy once they got there. These groups got to partake in activities together throughout the duration of the trip.

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When the cohort first arrived and met their groups, they began by getting to know each other through icebreakers. Icebreakers are a great way to interact and break the tension between the first impressions. LAS and Central Michigan’s Leadership Institute are huge advocates of promoting icebreakers all the time. Students I have spoken to in my cohort have mentioned that they played icebreakers such as “The Name Game,” or “A-Ok,” to begin getting to know their peers. The 2016 cohort students were able to facilitate these breakers. The groups also made community agreement posters to discuss boundaries and mutual goals.

After introducing everyone to one another the groups broke off into classrooms to begin group activities to improve communication skills and really emphasize the idea of teamwork. These activities were facilitated more so by the older members of LAS. Activities that advocated this concept were ones that involved squares of tape on the floor where the students had to guess the pattern of the pathway to the end and memorize each correct step. To complete this activity, the team had to help each other remember which squares were correct and make decisions on where they thought the next correct step was. This is a great way to strategize and reach a common goal. Other activities that required team work were games such as the ball and string activity. This activity requires a plastic pole in the middle with a small ring around it that has a variety of different strings attached. Each member of the group is supposed to grab a string to lift the ring up the pole. There is then a ball at the top of the pole that you must balance on the ring. The goal of this game is to lift the ball with the ring and transport it to a different pole. This activity requires focus and mutual agreements of ways to complete the task.

The groups then ended their days with a debrief. Debriefs are a great way to express emotions felt throughout activities like these to really understand the purpose of the activities and earn from mistakes. These debriefs were more so lead by the 2016 cohort members to really relate as a team of how much they enjoyed the activity, or their frustration with the activity. During debriefs, it is also crutial to open up the floor to explain the deeper meaning of the goal of the activities and explain the importance of the leadership skill it attempted to really advocate.

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Overall, I believe that Jalen Rose Leadership Academy and the Leadership Advancement Scholars of CMU had a beneficial and positive experience throughout the course of “LAS in the D” because of the ways they got to interact with the students and truly experience community work and collaboration. I am so excited to get to experience this trip next winter as a sophomore with a bit of this background knowledge on the school and it’s community. I am so thankful to be a part of a university and community that has the opportunity to travel to places like Detroit and experience places like Jalen Rose and I hope that someday students like them are able to do have equal opportunities.

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