Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Impact of Leadership Training on the Civic Awareness and Leadership Development of Saint Croix Foundation Youth Advisory Council Members

Leslie Hamdorf, Fielding's School of Educational Leadership & Change

This study examined the impact of 4 months of leadership training seminars and participation in a youth advisory council on the civic awareness and leadership development of members of the Saint Croix Foundation Youth Advisory Council (SCFYAC). The 16 members of the SCFYAC, between 14 and 21 years of age, participated in this study, which took place in Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The instruments used in the study included the Civic Measurement Models: Tapping Adolescents’ Civic Awareness and individual interviews; both were administered at the beginning and end of the study. Results from the survey did not indicate significant growth for members; however, analysis of the in-depth interviews demonstrated that participants had a greater understanding of leadership and civic engagement at the end of the study. The theme that suggested this understanding included knowledge of skills that leaders exhibit. Data also indicated an increase in SCFYAC members’ perception that civic engagement by citizens improves the community. Another theme was the pivotal experiences of SCFYAC members throughout the study, which included learning leadership skills through experiential activities, being encouraged to engage in civic activity, being supported by peer SCFYAC members in their development as leaders, and participating in discussions at meetings. SCFYAC members anticipated that they would be engaged in civic activities in the future and they envisioned specific roles in which they planned to serve their community. The results suggested that participation in SCFYAC increased participants’ civic awareness and plans for future engagement. Canonical correlations from the survey instrument led to further understanding of what influenced the participants’ civic awareness and engagement. Parental involvement in civics and having political conversations at home, coupled with discussions among peers, seemed to encourage greater awareness than did exposure to media or even classroom lessons. It was recommended that facilitators and educators who wish to encourage adolescents in the area of civic engagement integrate experiential learning exercises into their instructional programs and training to help adolescents to develop confidence in their civic engagement.

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