Learning about leadership

In late November, I had the opportunity to participate in Student Leadership Trek, a new Peace Corps program in The Gambia. Three teams of six volunteers each taught leadership sessions to Grade 10 students over the course of two days. In total, we were able to reach six schools, biking from one village to the next to deliver our curriculum that focused on goal-writing and teamwork.

My Trek Team!

My Trek Team!

Since it’s not part of my primary job assignment, I don’t usually spend a lot of time working with high-schoolers although it’s something I really enjoy. The teenagers are more capable of discussing complex topics in a second language while they are still at an impressionable age.

Although working together with opposite genders and setting goals are things that come naturally to many Americans, people here are not generally exposed to those concepts. Many students had never deliberately written a goal with an action plan, for example. Here, they often think “I want to be a lawyer” but have no idea what steps to take to enter that career path. In some parts of the country, many students don’t even have the concept of “lawyer” to make that as a goal.

Dan, my teaching partner, leading our goal-writing lesson.

Dan, my teaching partner, leading our goal-writing lesson.

Writing goals

Writing goals

Students with their goals and action plans

Students with their goals and action plans

The best part of the trek for me was coordinating the role model speakers in my village. For that session, the boys and girls each listened to a leader from the community share his or her story of how they got where they are today. I think it’s so important for the high-schoolers to be exposed to positive role models since so much of what they see is instead poverty and unemployment.

I asked my best friend in the village to share her story since it is particularly inspiring. She shared her extremely personal story of escaping a forced marriage to fulfill her lifelong dream to become a nurse. She really connected with the girls, who asked many questions and didn’t want the day to end.

The trek was one of those days that make all the challenges of Gambia worth it.

Grade Ten students at the high school in my village

Grade Ten students at the high school in my village

–JDF