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University of Delaware - Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics

By Deborah Olaoye November 1, 2019

John Beede, a Mount Everest climber, author and entrepreneur, knows how to fire up a crowd.

“Put up both hands and say, ‘Climb on, baby!” Beede, exclaimed as he greeted students, administrators and teachers from 14 Delaware secondary schools, during the Fall 2019 Siegfried Youth Leadership Program (SYLP) on Oct. 8.

Beede, who served as keynote speaker, joined the Siegfried Group and the University of Delaware’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE) at the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics in their goal of developing participants’ individual leadership skills, enhancing their lives and inspiring healthy change within their communities.

Beede dazzled 400 Delaware students and teachers by presenting three metaphorical “mountains” before them. Each mountain was represented by a story and lesson that stemmed from his mountain climbing journeys. Beede’s electrifying and interactive style of storytelling captivated and motivated the students as he encouraged them to participate in his presentation and to identify and conquer their own personal “mountains” they may face.

“The mountains will never lower themselves to your level; you must rise up to the demand presented to you by the climb,” Beede said, before closing out his talk with a question and answer session with the audience.

Students inquired about his various climbing escapades, as well as asking other follow-up questions on the lessons he had personally learned through his adventures. His answers continued to shed light on the need for personal betterment in order to become an effective leader.

“That’s what leaders do; they see all the stuff that’s screwed up and messed up in the world and say, ‘I’m going to bring a better self, as a leader, and I’m going to change it.  I’m gonna flip [this challenge] on its head by bringing to it the best self that I can’ and at any moment you, too, can turn on that switch,” Beede said.

For the first time this year, Amy Devlin, managing director at the Siegfried Group, along with Kevin Keegan, vice president and regional market leader at Siegfried, led the program. Robert Siegfried, who has traditionally hosted SYLP, will continue to lend his vision and support to the program as Keegan and Devlin continue as hosts.

Keegan cited Siegfried’s vision and SYLP’s grounding principle and mission in his introduction: “to help our community’s youth transform themselves into better individual leaders, enriching their lives now, and into the future.”

Students engaged with speakers in a number of ways.  They were asked to write down their goals for two, seven and 17 years from now because, according to Devlin, “a goal is 40 percent more likely to happen if you write it down.”

Participants also detailed their own recent accomplishments that they considered to be meaningful and inspiring. Students had the opportunity to publicly acknowledge those who they considered to be “angels” or positive forces and influences in their lives. After each of these independent reflection activities, students enjoyed being given the opportunity to share their responses with the audience. Each activity served as an opportunity to call into recognition those traits, details and qualities of leadership that the students know to be important and are already embodying.

Later in the program, Devlin and Keegan took the stage with five high school students from various Delaware schools to delve into a panel discussion. During this panel, these students had the opportunity to further elaborate on the topic of “angels.” The panelists, too, discussed who they consider to be their “angels” and if they felt that they had ever served as an “angel” for someone else.

“I think angels are our friends–  the people that influence us and only bring us positive influence to help guide us to reach our goals,” Mark Cruser from Concord High School, one of the student panelists, explained.

Attendees had the chance to fill out a post-event survey about their experience, sharing their opinion of the event and providing suggestions for conferences to come. “Take seemingly impossible steps,” “I have to lead myself before I can lead anyone else,” and “Pick your summit, gear up and climb on (a great approach for problem solving life’s challenges)” were a few of the many lessons that made an impact on SYLP attendees.

The next SYLP is scheduled to take place in February 2020 on UD’s campus, bringing more lessons, engaging speakers and successful strategies for individual growth and effective leadership. Registration is now underway.