Teen institute inspires leadership

Groton attendees at the 2019 Heart of NY Teen Institute (left to right) Trina Luttinger, GCS social worker and Teen Institute advisor, Jacey Hatfield, Evan Carlo, Brennan Brockway, Devyn Roberts, Kaija Hoyt. Not pictured: Leanna Jackson
Groton attendees at the 2019 Heart of NY Teen Institute (left to right) Trina Luttinger, GCS social worker and Teen Institute advisor, Jacey Hatfield, Evan Carlo, Brennan Brockway, Devyn Roberts, Kaija Hoyt. Not pictured: Leanna Jackson
Photo by Linda Competillo

When one thinks of leadership as it relates to teens, there can be many different thoughts that come to mind; some are somewhat positive, some are blatantly negative, and still others, for lack of a better description, tend toward being a bit limiting or stereotypical.

Most of us can easily think of high school students as leaders of clubs or sports teams, academic leaders who strive for keeping their grades up, leaders or mentors for younger students or any number of roles they might play as leaders of things or groups. However, we don’t easily consider leadership at this level as inspirational.

This past November, six Groton High School students, Brennan Brockway, Evan Carlo, Jacey Hatfield, Kaija Hoyt, Leanna Jackson and Devyn Roberts, along with their advisor and GCS social worker, Trina Luttinger, attended the Heart of NY Teen Institute at Camp of the Woods in Speculator, New York.

It was there that they enjoyed working with a diverse group of their peers to discover their own leadership styles and find ways to promote healthy attitudes and choices among other youth.

Teen Institute promotes teen resilience and empowers them with the ability to choose healthy lifestyles through developing emotional intelligence and an understanding of leadership, as well as the skills and confidence they need to lead themselves and their peers to addiction-free lives.

These students were among almost 200 teens from all over central New York who participated. It was an experience that not only “set the wheels in motion” to help develop a whole new concept of leadership for each of them but also “changed their lives forever,” as stated by each student a number of times throughout their presentation at the Groton Board of Education meeting on Monday, Jan. 13.

Luttinger, Brockway, Carlo, Hatfield, Hoyt and Roberts were present to share their experiences at the conference. Jackson was unable to attend the presentation.

Each student took part in presenting a detailed account of what took place during their four-day participation in TI. They shared the trepidation some felt going in and the positive life-changing attitudes and motivation each left with.

Carlo spoke about their long 14-hour days and the establishment of “family groups” that included other teens who transitioned from being strangers on day one to life-long friends by day four.

“It was actually exhausting but so worth it,” Carlo said. “Being in the family group made it easier to be social with others.”

While the family groups were randomly chosen by the TI leaders, Carlo also said that it was intentional that no students from the same school were placed in the same family group. During the entire four-day conference, cell phones were banned from the premises.

“No phones made half our burdens disappear,” Carlo said.

Brockway said that he came away from the experience with a desire to inspire others not to be afraid to go outside their comfort zones and is inspired himself to bring the spirit of inclusiveness that he learned there back to Groton.

He also described the “warm fuzzies” they all wore around their necks throughout the week, necklaces made of yarn with a pom-pom hanging from the center. He said people would exchange the pieces of yarn from the center with one another as an act of kindness and that he wore his when he got back to Groton for quite a few days so he could explain to his fellow students what it meant.

Like Carlo’s opinion, Brockway said, “Not having my phone was the best part.”
Hoyt explained some of the things they did to promote kindness toward others, such as leaving notes with compliments or positive observations they may have made about another person in special mailboxes, and said she felt very accepted there.

Roberts shared that TI pushed her to be more social and to try new things. She said she felt that it was a safe place with no judgement and took her from being less social to willingly enjoying social situations.

“Everyone left with something new in their lives,” Roberts said.

Hatfield spoke about her appreciation for all she learned about herself and others. She particularly appreciated the different ways the TI leadership made it fun for them to sit with new people at mealtime, such as having everyone with certain color pants sit at the same table.

She also expressed her delight at not having her phone to distract her, saying she felt she would not have gotten a fraction of what she left TI with if she had had her phone during that time. Hatfield plans to return to TI this year as a teen leader.

The TI attendees all participated in workshops and team-building exercises, listened to motivational speakers and so much more. It seems clear that TI was very inspiring for these young people. Seeing and hearing their enthusiasm was an inspiration for me, and I hope it may have sparked some hope and appreciation for what some of our future leaders have to offer our world.

Groton on the Inside appears weekly. Submit news ideas to Linda Competillo, lmc10@cornell.edu or 607-227-4922.

In brief:

Dog control

Did you know that Country Acres Pet Services is the provider for dog control in the town and village of Groton? Services are provided for lost pets, dog complaints, stray dogs, nuisance dogs, sick or injured strays, dangerous dogs and enforcing the town of Groton dog law. The law can be viewed at townofgrotonny.org.

Dogs are wonderful, but unfortunately, some dogs are not always the best neighbors for quite a range of reasons. If you have a concern of any kind about a dog in your Groton neighborhood, you may contact the town anonymously on the townofgrotonny.org website or call the town clerk’s office at (607) 898-5035.

While you must provide detailed information as to what your concern is and the address where the dog is harbored, you are not required to provide your name unless you desire to make a formal complaint against the dog’s owner.

To make a formal complaint about a dog, contact Country Acres Pet Services directly at (607) 749-2734 during regular office hours, which are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Saturday. At any other time, call the emergency number (607) 345-5115 or email info@countryacresanimalshelter.org.

On a more positive note, Country Acres is also a great place to consider adopting a dog from. It is located at 5852 W. Scott Rd. in Homer.

Agriculture Trivia Night

Stonehedges Golf Course is the place to be for the Groton Farmer Challenge Agriculture Trivia Night and Silent Auction from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, sponsored by the Groton Agriculture Committee to benefit the Groton FFA (Future Farmers of America).

Advance ticket cost is $25 per adult, $30 at the door. Price includes admission and full dinner and dessert, with drinks available for purchase. All attendees must be 21 or older.

Social hour begins at 6 p.m. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m. Trivia (four to six players per team) and a silent auction will take place from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Contact grotonagcommittee@gmail.com to purchase advance tickets or for additional information.

Kudos to the GFD

Congratulations to the 2020 re-elected chief officers of the Groton Fire Department: Chief Ben Nelson, Deputy Chief Rick Neville Jr., 1st Assistant Chief Rob Gallinger and 2nd Assistant Chief Eric Deforrest. The position for 3rd assistant chief remains vacant.

The GFD responded to 1,040 calls in 2019, which set a new record high. Our firefighters are primarily volunteers and can always use more men or women to join the ranks. If this is something you would like to know more about, call the GFD at (607) 898-3135, or find them on Facebook and send a message.


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