Words such as collaborative, empathetic, genuine and loyal were written on paper bingo sheets. The young women playing the game were told to call out, “I’ve got the power!” when they got a bingo.
It was among several leadership-building activities at the first Girl POWER (Promoting Opportunities Where Everyone Rises) leadership camp, held at Incarnate Word Academy in June. The two-day camp for rising sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders was offered as a way for participants to discover their specific leadership characteristics.
After the bingo game, the girls were asked to share other characteristics of a leader that were not used in the game.
“Forgiving,” said Mia Nikodem, a rising seventh-grader at St. Cletus School in St. Charles. “It allows people to make mistakes and learn from them.” Later, she shared an experience with a friend who was acting mean toward her and other friends. The girl later apologized for her behavior, and the group of friends forgave her.
“I know that she was a good person, and that she deserved forgiveness,” Mia said, adding that her parents instilled in her the importance of forgiving others.
Incarnate’s admissions director Shannon Groark said the camp was modeled after Girls with Ideas, a national leadership curriculum. The school held a similar leadership camp several years ago, and Groark, an Incarnate alumna, wanted to reintroduce the concept when she started working for the all-girls private Catholic high school.
The focus, she said, “is the development of these young girls. Leadership became such a defining part of my time at Incarnate. I would have loved to have a camp like this when I was their age. We talk a lot about empowering each other. It’s so helpful for girls to hear that they’re special, they’re important.”
Other activities included a pre-test and post-test to gain a better understanding of what they learned during the camp, an assessment to discover leadership styles and creating goals for developing leadership skills. Leilani Carver-Madalon, assistant professor of strategic communication and leadership at Maryville University, shared strategies for increasing confidence in the mind, body and spirit. Topics included use of social media, self-talk, non-verbal communication and taking small risks to build confidence.
“I believe we are all special gifts from God and have unique talents that God has given us,” said Leilani, a member of St. Ambrose Parish on the Hill. “If we compare our talent to someone else, it’s (like comparing) a different part of a body. We need all the parts together in our world to be the best that we can be. Everyone has their own talents.”
Incarnate sophomore Taylor Meyer, one of several school ambassadors who led the small group sessions, said “I hope they’re able to know and realize that each one of them are leaders. Leadership is not just for adults; they can be leaders at any age.” She cited the opportunities she’s been given in high school, such as getting involved in campus ministry, and modeling for other students the importance of prayer and going to confession.
Kylie Carpentier, who graduated from Incarnate in May, returned to campus to help with the camp. She said leadership is something to be developed throughout a person’s life. “Leadership isn’t just a thing where you just learn a definition and then it’s done,” she said. “I think it’s one of those things where you’re always learning about it.”