Helping Young People Build Individual Leadership | Lerner
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University of Delaware - Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics

By Jen Hendrickson December 20, 2021

This fall, the Siegfried Youth Leadership Program® (SYLP®), a collaborative effort between The Siegfried Group, LLP (Siegfried), the University of Delaware’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE), and Junior Achievement of Delaware (JA), brought the tenth iteration of this highly-regarded leadership assembly to four Delaware schools: Las Americas ASPIRA Academy, Hodgson Vo-Tech, Mount Pleasant and Smyrna High Schools in a hybrid, live-stream format.

The event fulfilled the mission of the SYLP®: to help young people build individual leadership, enabling them to enrich their personal and professional lives, now and in the future. It covered topics about individual leadership and incorporated related activities and lessons that teachers can use to further engage students in and out of the classroom.

Onsite presenters included Siegfried’s Amy Devlin, Kevin Keegan and Brendah Walyemwa and representatives from CEEE and JA. Keynote speaker Juan Bendaña, a renowned author, DJ and the founder of the 100 Day Playbook, joined virtually in real-time.

“Talking to students is my passion,” said Bendaña. “During the presentation, we dove into bigger future, individual leadership, character ethic, mindsets, courage, relationships and more. Taking this thoughtful and reflective time out of their hectic, teenage days to focus on bettering themselves is a true gift.”

“With leadership, the earlier you start, the better you get at it and the more time you have to achieve your goals,” said Walyemwa, acting director of employee engagement and employee inclusion and advancement at Siegfried. “Starting with students at this age allows them more time to figure out what they want to do in the future, how they’re going to get there, the character ethic they need to develop and gives them a better chance at achieving their goals.”

Siegfried’s CEO and Founder, Robert Siegfried, has spent more than 30 years helping people transform themselves into better leaders to exponentially improve their lives. In 2016, Siegfried expanded this reach and created SYLP® to help students in grades 8 to 12 develop the leadership qualities they need to have a successful future.

“SYLP® was inspired by my daughter and her belief that I could share something with younger generations,” said Siegfried. “I want to impress on this group the importance of personal leadership to find something inspiring, a personal passion, and use it to lead a purposeful and fulfilling future.”

Carlos Asarta, CEEE’s James B. O’Neill director, is proud of the University of Delaware’s partnership with Siegfried to bring this impactful program to teachers and students in Delaware.

“The vision of the CEEE is to see all students graduate as economically literate and productive citizens and, in order to accomplish that goal, we need to explore partnerships that go beyond the supply of economics, personal finance and entrepreneurship knowledge,” Asarta said.

“The SYLP® program provides students with the tools to become better leaders, improving their lives exponentially and, by default, the lives of those around them,” Asarta added. “What can be more powerful to create change than providing knowledge and leadership skills at an early age? We know that our partnership with Siegfried is changing the lives of students and look forward to partnering with them for many years to come.”

Delaware teachers have reaped the benefits of this program. Lisa Westerfield, a teacher with Las Americas ASPIRA Academy, has used examples from the stories to have students explain “what you have done or need to do to find the courage to move beyond and use to become one of your strengths.”

“The skills for leadership can be explained in different ways,” Westerfield said. “This program always adds another layer of what leadership means and the skills needed for success through real life experiences.”

“All of our students can really benefit from leadership skills and qualities because they realized that leadership doesn’t mean that you have to be the loudest, it means that you’re looking at yourself and how you can improve,” said Kelly Bench, a teacher with Hodgson Vo-Tech. “You can incorporate these little tidbits of information from the leadership program into your daily teaching.”

Throughout the sessions, students were asked to take quiet time to reflect and write down their insights, including their accomplishments and how they want to be courageous.

“One insight from today is: be kind to yourself”, said Kevin Keegan, senior vice president and regional market leader at Siegfried. “One student said, ‘I’m my own toughest critic.’ Juan’s keynote touched right on this. That’s another sign of how much intelligence, insight and depth these students have even before they go through the program.

“But it’s up to us to bring it out of them and continue to have them explore their individual leadership and what’s going on in their hearts and minds,” Keegan concluded. “I love the passion and energy the kids bring to SYLP®, it always energizes me.”

For many of the students who attended, such as the ninth graders at ASPIRA Academy, this was their first-time at SYLP®. They were impressed by the stories they heard and Bendaña’s presentation. They also recognized how they applied what they learned, from speaking up more in class to recognizing “the choices that I make determine my success.”

One ASPIRA student, Emely, said, “The SYLP® presentation was very inspiring for me. Basically, we have to think before we act. So I’m practicing to think before I do something, such as, if I should stay up to study or say something that might offend someone or how to word it more professionally.”

For others such as twelfth graders Lynasia Price and Hemerson Santos-Pineda from Hodgson Vo-Tech, the presentation helped reinforce what they need to do to become better leaders.

Price, who has attended the SYLP® program previously, said, “I tend to procrastinate. The SYLP® motivated me to sign up for a vendor event to help market my skincare products. I like to empower women and if I can help them through skin care, it makes me happy.”

The program resonated with Santos-Pineda, an SYLP® first-timer.

“I liked how transparent, positive and engaging they were with the students, allowing them to be open, be comfortable, making it a safe space for anyone,” Santos-Pineda said. “What I liked best about the program was talking about taking ownership.

“I do work at Chick-fil-A and I’m one of the leaders there. Every day is something new and taking ownership is one of the biggest things to becoming a leader. I like how Juan explained that it’s okay to make mistakes and it’s important that you fix them.”