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FBISD Student Leadership 101 Cohorts explore leadership in community volunteerism (1/12/2016)

FORT BEND ISD – It has been said that volunteering is good for the heart and the soul. To speak on that truth, area community leaders shared their experiences in community volunteerism with members of Fort Bend ISD’s Student Leadership 101 Program during a recent session.


To help the students understand that it takes a team of volunteers to ensure that abused children receive the help they need, Ruthanne Mefford, Chief Executive Officer of Child Advocates of Fort Bend, explained the types of services provided through CASA House. She also led students in a role-play exercise demonstrating the process children go through when placed in Child Protective Services and the various volunteers required to ensure children's safety. Students Queen Onyeahialam of Austin High School and Luke Metzer of Dulles High School performed as victims of child abuse, while other cohorts performed as individuals who provide assistance to the children.


Following the exercise, Metzer admitted that he felt overwhelmed and confused. “When my personal items were taken away from me, I felt like I had lost a part of myself,” he said.


“You can just imagine what actual children who are placed in CPS go through,” said Mefford. “It’s really tough for the kids being in an unfamiliar setting away from their family and friends. Our goal is to help heal the hurt and provide children with a voice so that they can have a happy childhood.”


After leading the students on a tour of the facility, Mefford encouraged them to consider volunteering at CASA House.


During their visit to Bethel Ministries, Carolyn Tarver, Founder of Project SMILE, explained how she turned a personal tragedy into a rewarding volunteer experience that has benefited thousands of children over the years. Following the loss of her only child, Stan, Tarver devoted her life to making the world a better place for children and their families. “I have learned that beauty can rise out of the ashes of tragedy,” she said.


Tarver is fortunate to work with Becky Torres, Director of Mission Outreach for Bethel Ministries, and a team of generous donors and volunteers in providing educational services (including tutorials, after-school care and school supplies), holiday meals and Christmas toys to children and families in need of assistance. They began assisting 20 children in 1984, but now assist more than 1,800 children each year. During the holidays, they partner with area service clubs to provide toys to children through Santa’s Exchange.


Like Mefford, Tarver also informed the students of volunteer opportunities available at Bethel Ministries and invited them to join in the effort.


“This session was really beneficial to me,” admitted Jane Cloninger of Dulles High School. “We focus on volunteerism in high school but mostly for the hours. To see someone whose career is based on volunteering is really eye-opening. Choosing to devote your life to helping people is really cool.”


Phillip Le of Bush High School agreed, and said, “I thought the session was interesting because we visited with different people who are making a big difference in our community. They are volunteering their time out of the goodness of their hearts and are setting good examples for us to follow.”


Student Leadership 101 Program Facilitator Michael Madden understands the importance of community volunteerism and was proud to help present this session to students.


“This session on Leadership in Community Volunteerism is probably the most dynamic and important session of the entire cohort experience because it allows the students to see that volunteerism is interwoven into every session that they’ll take part in this year,” said Madden. “Whether learning about the medical, business, government or judicial fields, the students will learn how important volunteerism is in reference to what our community and business leaders are doing. Volunteerism is at the root of everything they do within their jobs.”


The cohorts ended the session by taking part in StrengthsFinder activities led by Brandi Breckenridge, Talent Management and Development Consultant. Breckenridge helped the students understand different components of a strength (including talents, knowledge and skills), and encouraged them to put their strengths into practice. The cohorts also received printouts of their top five talent themes based on the results of a StrengthsFinder assessment.


Photo 1: Pictured at CASA House are (from left): Sylviane Hoare, CASA Volunteer; Michael Madden, Student Leadership Program Facilitator; Anthony Amy, Kempner High School; Jenifer Ogu, Bush High School; Cameron West, Travis High School; Victoria Pride, Travis High School; Ruthanne Mefford, Chief Executive Officer, Child Advocates of Fort Bend; and Julie Duplechain, Program Facilitator and Community Engagement Specialist.



Photo 2: Ruthanne Mefford collects personal items from Luke Metzer of Dulles High School and Queen Onyeahialam of Austin High School during a role-play activity.



Photo 3: Cohorts shown during a presentation at CASA House.


Photo 4: Becky Torres, Director of Mission Outreach for Bethel Ministries, and Carolyn Tarver, Founder of Project SMILE, speak to students on volunteerism.



Photo 5: Pictured at Bethel Ministries are (from left): Sanika Phanse, Dulles High School; Becky Torres, Bethel Ministries; Michael Madden, Program Facilitator; Heather Wickstrand, Ridge Point High School; Carolyn Tarver, Project SMILE; Lillian Bajor, Ridge Point High School; Queen Onyeahialam, Austin High School; and Julie Duplechain, Program Facilitator and Community Engagement Specialist.



Photo 6: Brandi Breckenridge, Talent Management and Development Consultant (right), distributes activity packets to students (from left) Zander Tedjo, Clements High School; Cameron West, Travis High School; and Sanika Phanse, Dulles High School.



Photo 7: Shown with their top five StrengthsFinder themes are (clockwise from top): Julia Shepstone, Austin High School; Anjali James, Hightower High School; and Kennedy Verge, Kempner High School.



Photo 8: Completing a StrengthsFinder activity are Jane Cloninger, Dulles High School; and Vianca Jimenez, Kempner High School.



Read previous articles highlighting the 2015-2016 Student Leadership 101 season.

Session 1 – Teambuilding and Leadership Development