A select group of promising scholars was empowered to break down their walls, make meaningful connections with their peers and develop self-confidence during GEAR UP 4 LA’s three-day Student Leadership Institute in September.
To ensure academic excellence and strong social-emotional wellness for all students, GU4LA scholars gathered at one of three sites – Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles Trade Technical College or Los Angeles Mission College – to boost their leadership skills and build social capital: uplifting relationships that provide support, information and opportunities.
“I actually felt really amazing with all the bonding I had with certain people I didn’t think was possible,” said Marco Leon, a sophomore at the School of Social Justice at Marquez High School. “I found a lot of comfort in a lot of friends I made that I never knew.”
Students were selected based on their leadership potential and ability to serve their peers as mentors or in a capacity that would promote positive connections and strengthen the college- and career-going cultures at their schools.
“When our students feel connected to their peers and communities, they are able to open doors, advocate for themselves and others, and use their voice to carve a path toward a positive future,” Senior Program Manager Sharon Yamada West said.
The program was facilitated by Seeds Training, a GU4LA partner that empowers students to build grit, resilience and lifelong leadership skills through a series of exercises.
“The skills you learn here, they’re going to help you in the future,” said Oscar Martinez, a sophomore at the School for the Visual Arts and Humanities at RFK Community Schools. “They’re helping you communicate, work with a team, learn not to give up and meet new people.”
Students engaged in team-building activities to get them out of their comfort zones and develop their voice; moments of self-reflection that helped ease their social fears and gain new perspectives; and exercises that cultivated meaningful connections with students they’ve never met.
“Take the opportunity,” said Nasir Smith, a junior at Obama Global Preparation Academy. “It’s fun and you get to experience a whole lot of things that some other kids don’t. So, I say, spread your wings and you’ll fly.”