There's more to LAYL than meets the eye

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By Jennifer Garcia

Getting leadership training is easy for adults in Los Alamos. All they have to do is sign up for a Leadership Los Alamos course.
Training youth leaders is just as simple. Each year, Los Alamos Youth Leadership has helped high school students in ninth through 12th grade gain confidence and leadership skills that they may use later in life. County Councilor Sharon Stover founded the group in 2005.
Approximately 25-45 students join LAYL each summer and work with adult leaders from the community that have gone through the Leadership Los Alamos program.
In fact, several community groups support LAYL and without the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, Los Alamos National Bank, the Family YMCA and Los Alamos High School, LAYL would not be possible.
LAYL members are broken up into groups, which are then named by the members as a way to bond. Some of the past names include Team Jacob and the Bahnahnaz, Team Grr and the High Altitude Ninjas.
The groups do various community projects throughout the year, which are determined by the students.
“Generally one project is a fundraiser such as a car wash, bake sale, selling sun glasses, face painting at game or any other fundraising activity that the students come up with,” LAYL adult leader Susan Odegard Fellows said. “Other projects in the past have been working with elementary schools, promoting literacy and building a pet rock garden, trail work, planting gardens, team spirit activities at the high school and distracted driving projects. We have annual projects that as a team will do each year, such as planning the LAHS homecoming bon- fire, adopt-a-family for the holidays and Wild Day.”
Though community service is also a part of what LAYL teaches, they also learn to gain confidence through the Step Up Orientation session. This year, the session will be Aug. 18-19 and will include an overnight stay at Camp Shaver.
“During the meeting, students break up into teams and work on team-building skills. Sean Hall, facilitator with On the Edge Productions, comes out and works with the students,” Odegard Fellows said.
“During the Step Up orientation, students will decide what activities they want to accomplish  for the school year. Teams meet once or twice a month during their lunch hour.”
Hall believes that young adults should participate in and join LAYL because it gives them “here and now experience in relating with other young adults. While relating with other young adults in the LAYL program, it allows them the opportunity to create and maintain relationships within LAYL and use those relationship skills away from the program, as well, both at home and at school.”
 Hall also said that in the short term, LAYL gives students a “safe place to explore and develop long-term values that will last a lifetime. Participants also create positive relationships with both youth and adults that will last a lifetime.”
He also said that projects such as the current elementary reading program and Wild Day provide community outreach and valuable services that might not be otherwise provided.
“In the long-term, participants develop skills in goal setting and the abilities to achieve those goals that too, will also last a lifetime,” Hall said.
“These skills are even more need by youth in today’s generation because today’s young adults are said to be facing (on average), seven career changes throughout their working lifetime.”
LAHS students interested in joining LAYL still have a chance to submit an application. They can be downloaded at losalamosjjab.com and dropped off at the Family YMCA. Application deadline is June 27.