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Thorold youth gets crash course in community leadership

The TCAG launched a Leaders-in-Training program, which aims to transform kids into community builders; 'It was a smashing success'

The Thorold Community Activities Group (TCAG) is nurturing the community builders of tomorrow, with their new Leaders-in-Training program.

Earlier this summer, six kids — between the ages of 11 and 15 years old — were enrolled into the pilot project to learn how to become leaders in their community.

“We’re building leadership skills, gaining experience, and helping out at the TCAG,” explains counsellor Liam Clews, in an interview with ThoroldToday.

Clews is a trained teacher so he had a plethora of experience to draw from when putting together a curriculum that places an emphasis on communication, cooperation, public speaking, and time management.

The six-week Leaders-in-Training program is divided into two blocks of three weeks, that are then divided up into different themes.

“The first week is leadership qualities,” says Clews. “The second week we are being leaders in our community. The last week is when they go into groups. They help out and lead by example.”

Throughout the summer, the leaders helped out at the Thorold Public Library, did community clean-ups, raised Monarch butterflies, and collected 336 pounds of food for Community Care Thorold.

“We also got certified in the babysitting course,” says participant Riley. “It was a big test that we had to do. We learned how to feed a baby, and how to burp a baby, stuff like that.”

The leaders-in-training also put on games for the younger kids in the other summer camps.

All the activities have one thing in common: they teach the leaders-in-training how to show up for their community.

“We’ve only been together for six weeks but you can see big changes throughout one summer,” says counsellor Peyton Thomson.

That sentiment is echoed by the kids in the program.

“I used to have some problems with my siblings,” says one participant. “We used to argue almost every single day and now it doesn’t happen anymore.”

Megan Gilchrist, who is the executive director of the TCAG, says that the program has more than exceeded her expectations.

“It was a smashing success,” she tells ThoroldToday. “They’ve done some really great things in the community. They’ve really clicked as a group and we want to keep that momentum going until next summer.”

That’s why the TCAG is hoping to have the group meet occasionally throughout the school year, so they can keep helping their community.

This is the first time the TCAG has offered programming for kids between 11 and 15 years old and it's their hope that participants will be encouraged to eventually become TCAG counsellors themselves.

Gilchrist credits former TCAG director Dan Pelletier with the idea for the program, and she says it is not surprising to see that it has been such a success. 

“I think when we give kids that age the tools to be leaders, they thrive at it,” Gilchrist says. “They’re at that age where they’re not little kids anymore and they’re capable of sometimes doing more than we give them credit for. They’re great kids and they’ve had really great role models in the counsellors.“