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Leadership Niagara, a community leadership development program, runs a program called Leadership Youth of Niagara County, also known as LYNC. This program allows students from high schools in Niagara County to get involved in their community.

LYNC teaches students about different types of leadership and how to put it to use. Students meet once a month to learn about leadership principles, problem solving, problem management, servant leadership, change and transformation. The students also develop action plans, reflect and journal about leadership concepts, and lead projects in their schools and communities.

“The community is the classroom,” said executive director Molly Anderson. “We draw on our network of Leadership Niagara graduates from all walks of life who are actually leading to serve as program mentors and to share their stories with us. Our LYNC students are living examples of the power of leadership development.”

LYNC grew from 23 students last year to 78 students (in 12 high schools). More than 400 local students have graduated from LYNC since 2001 and, due to the Irene E. Witkowski Agrawal Foundation, there will be 400 more graduates over the next five years.

“We believe that leadership can be learned,” Anderson said. “Every month we provide opportunities for young people to strengthen their abilities and apply what they are learning to their everyday lives. Each session is a step on the journey to becoming an effective leader.

“LYNC is the best part of my job,” Anderson added. “While our program is designed to inspire the next generation of future leaders, I too am energized by our young people’s desire to learn, their optimism and fresh ideas. It brings out the best in all of us – and that essentially is the core of leadership.”

So what do the students think of this program?

“LYNC is teaching me how to be ready to take the lead in my community and organization on any task that comes,” said Shaun Jenkins, a senior at Niagara Falls High School. “The community is getting a chance to see the creative side of LYNC and what it can do for them. LYNC can improve the lifestyles of individuals and the community the longer it’s around.”

Many students participating in Leadership Niagara’s program agree with Shaun.

Ayleen Breurer, a junior at Royalton Hartland High School, said, “I think LYNC is an excellent program that enables teens to become involved with the community and opens up opportunities for them to do different things like charity work. I would definitely recommend it because it gets teens involved. I think more places besides Niagara County should offer this program to give more people opportunities. This is going to help me. It is giving me connections to other leaders and it’s really inspiring me to do more.”

Alex Bauer, a sophomore at Niagara Wheatfield Senior High School, agrees with Ayleen and Shaun.

“I think this is a good program because ... it teaches people who are likely to be in a leadership position how to be a good leader. I would recommend it because it’s a good character builder and it also helps build communication skills, which are important.”

The group has big plans for its future.

“This year we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of Leadership Niagara,” Anderson said. “By applying leadership concepts to our organization we have experienced tremendous growth in the past year. I look forward to the development of our LYNC program and continuing to help others on their leadership journey.”

For more information on Leadership Niagara, visit www.leadershipniagara.com.

Olivia Tober is a sophomore at Niagara Wheatfield Senior High School.