YLC Vail Trailer

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A short trailer with some highlights from our incredible week at the Vail Mountain School for YLC Vail 2014! We can’t wait to share more with you soon.

A huge thanks!

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1560634_10201936493546300_468100794_nIn  concluding this fantastic week, we want to give a huge thanks to Mr. Kabe ErkenBrack (or “Mr.E”) for everything he did to make this happen! He was the reason we came to Vail Mountain School, and he did a tremendous job getting all of the preparations set and providing an unforgettable experience for all involved. Thank you, Kabe!

We also are so grateful to the students, faculty, and parents of Vail Mountain School for allowing us to journey to you to teach and share such a week of learning and inspiration week with your talented students. We couldn’t have asked for better students or a better week. We hope to see you again next year, if not sooner!

Day 5: Presentation Day!

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Today the students blew us all away with their presentations at the final presentation ceremony. We had a supportive crowd of teachers and parents cheering the students on — and cheering for them as they spoke confidently about their interest, issue and initiatives. The students demonstrated many of the skills they had learned throughout the week, including teamwork, communication, problem-solving, creativity, public speaking, empathy, and self presentation.

The teams presented impressive and admirable social change projects for their communities — from engaging local yout through afterschool programs, to building an anti-bullying website, to helping the homeless in their town, to coaching disabled athletes. All of the groups were excited to continue working on the project and brining it to life this year. With the support of the VMS teachers as well as as ongoing mentorship of the Harvard teachers, all the students will be supported to continue to lead the change with their projects. Stay tuned for updated on the recipients of the YLC Spring Fellowship, a selective program for the top teams to receive additional mentoring and funding from the Leadership Institute at Harvard College. We look forward to seeing the seeds from the week blossom in 2014.


Day 4: Presence, Style + Practice

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Our focus today was on presenting our ideas to the public and feeling confidence in front of others. We analyzed different leadership speeches and TED talks to dissect the elements of an effective speech (ethos, pathos and logos were key concepts discussed). To put the concepts to the test, the students practiced giving elevator pitches for their social change solutions and giving feedback to one another on how to improve (remembering that all good leaders get constructive criticism). It was exciting to watch the students bring their ideas to life and gain confidence as they spoke about something they cared about, from tutoring disadvantaged youth to coaching disabled skiers.

Lunch was especially tasty this day with the class YLC “cultural lunch”, in which students bring in food that reflects their family and personal identity (the teachers brought in “Boston brownie brittle”!) The message was that everyone has a unique flavor–or perspective–that makes them who they are. Celebrating individuality, as well as being tolerant of difference, is critical to being an empathetic leader. We also learned that personal identity can be expressed in how we project ourselves and our ideas — what we call a “brand.” To teach this concept, we had the students design their own websites and develop a brand for their projects. To our delight, they picked up the web development like pros! We can’t wait to see what they present in their final presentations tomorrow…and what other cool websites they go on to develop after YLC!

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Day 3: Jump In, Ideation + Vision

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Today we started to really jump into our social change projects, using creativity, vision, and prototyping to develop a solution. To get us thinking out of the box, we did an activity called the “Marshmallow Challenge”, in which everyone has 18 minutes to build the tallest possible structure with a few sticks of spaghetti, pieces of tape, a string of yarn and a marshmallow. It was amazing to see creative structures that students created, as well as those that toppled over… We had some interesting reflections around the importance of prototyping a solution early and working as a team to execute on the plan.

Another core concept of the way was the role of goal-setting and its importance in completing a project. We used a method call SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, timebound) goals for the social change projects to help the students get really concrete in their thinking. It was exciting to see what kind of ideas the teams came up with and the goals they set to achieve their vision. After lunch, we started creating missions statements and a timelines for the social change projects. We can’t wait to see what the students create!  In the evening, some of the VMS teaching staff took us on an incredible night hike and ski down the Vail mountains. The snow was perfect and it was a night we will always remember!


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Day 2: Understanding, Community Problems + Solutions

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Today we transitioned to thinking about how we use our strengths and personal passions to solve social problems in our communities. We spent the morning thinking about the communities that we are apart of and how these communities define us as people (an exercise YLC calls “The Real Me”). We also got in some good teamwork games in the gym, including Lava Flow and Ichi Mini Hoi!

In the afternoon, we moved to thinking about what problems in our community connect with our personal passions and might be topics to address for the social change projects. We did an ethnographic exercise (interviewing each other and observing real-life problems) to better understand big problems in our communities that are personally meaningful. We also read through case studies developed by YLC to think about how other leaders have navigated leading change. We talked about the motivation and passion that leaders have to make a difference and help others. Towards the end of the day we did conflict resolution skits, which showed just how important it is to work together in order to solve problems and develop a project with a team. Overall, it was a great day with lots of energy for tomorrow!

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Day 1: Define, Self + Leadership

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We had an incredible first day with the YLC students at the Vail Mountain School (VMS). Today the focus was on looking at ourselves and understanding how our personal story can impact us as leaders. We also sought to better understand what leadership means, while recognizing that there many different meanings of leadership and types of good leaders.

We started the day by getting to know each other through some ice breakers in the gym, and then moved on to work on our “path of life” (a mini life mapping / self reflection exercise), identify our leadership compass (or sort of “direction” or style of leadership), and we started to get to know everyone. We feel so fortunate to be working with these great students at VMS and getting the opportunity to learn from each other here in Colorado.


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