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University of Delaware - Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics
Over 350 local students gathered for UD alumnus led leadership program

By Dena Hillison November 2, 2018

Robert Siegfried, Class of ’81, built his business, The Siegfried Group, from a small company focused in Wilmington, Delaware to a nationally renowned firm. Through this journey, and his time as an economics and accounting double major at the University of Delaware, Siegfried learned firsthand the qualities needed to produce an effective leader.  With this wealth of knowledge at his disposal, Siegfried knew he wanted to impact his local community and help local teenage students develop their leadership skills early.

The only barrier was that Siegfried didn’t know what approach to take, until his daughter told him to “just talk to them.” With this motivation, Siegfried developed the Siegfried Youth Leadership Program (SYLP).

On Oct. 9, over 350 students from 17 local middle and high schools gathered at Clayton Hall at UD for the fifth SYLP. Siegfried returns biannually to his alma mater to host this unique program in collaboration with his company, The Siegfried Group, the Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE) in UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and Junior Achievement of Delaware. The SYLP website states that the purpose of the program is to help youth in the community transform themselves to become better individual leaders, which enables them to enrich their personal and professional lives, now and in the future.

This half-day program focused on instilling on the following points in the student participants:

    • Learn how to define and reach for success
    • Draw on their passions to help visualize and energize their bigger future
    • Meet new, like-minded people in an exciting atmosphere
    • Reflect on their dreams and ambitions
    • Learn innovative tools and concepts to define, plan and realize goals
    • Take initiative to become involved, build relationships and be significant

To kick off the program, Siegfried was introduced by his longtime friend, and treasurer of the State of Delaware, Ken Simpler. Once on stage, Siegfried outlined his journey to success in leadership and how he hoped this conference would impact the student participants. He told the audience about how successful people have healthy habits, and how school and life synergy is essential, because developing this synergy early will prepare students for when this evolves to work and life synergy in the future. According to Siegfried, this synergy allows your work to complement and help your personal life and vice versa.

Following a short break, four student volunteers joined Siegfried onstage for a panel discussion focused on their goals for the future. Jordyn Arrington from Newark Charter School was asked to reflect what she hopes her life will be at age 25. Jordyn spoke about her dreams of going to an elite medical school to become a surgeon saying,”Hopefully my goals will be my reality by then.”

After the student panel keynote speaker Shane Feldman sprinted down the aisle, leapt onstage and began his address. Feldman is an internationally recognized youth expert, motivational speaker, producer, social entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Count Me In, a global youth empowerment movement. The main takeaways from his performance-based presentation were that leadership begins with listening and not with thinking, and that if you take no action, nothing will happen. For Feldman, leadership is about the follow-through.

The conference will be back on UD’s campus in February 2019 to reach even more local students with Siegfried’s lessons in leadership.

Photo Credit: Nick Wallace