Developing the Gutsy Leaders of Tomorrow
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Developing the Gutsy Leaders of Tomorrow

Harriet Lewis supports seven special college-bound students with the 2010 Next Generation Leaders program

For years, Harriet Lewis had been providing scholarship opportunities to outstanding students from Boston's inner city neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester, and Allston. "Academic excellence lays the foundation for success," says Harriet. "But there are so many other experiences that I consider valuable, like community service, professional employment, and, of course, international travel." To this end, Harriet channeled her passion for education and leadership development into the Next Generation Leaders program, dedicated to providing a richer experience for promising college-bound students. The first group of candidates was selected in 2007—and today, the class of 2010 is currently learning what it really means to be a leader in the eyes of Harriet Lewis.

Congratulations to our 2010 Next Generation Leaders: Rodney Galvao, Yelithza Galvez, Jamel Langston, Myesha Neely, Darryl Soto, Hakeem Adetokunbo Yaya, and Amy Zahlaway.

Harriet selected her candidates from several youth-oriented organizations that have enjoyed long-term partnerships with Grand Circle Foundation: Artists for Humanity, City on a Hill Charter School, SquashBusters, Summer Search, and West End House Boys & Girls Club. "Relationships are everything, and we've had relationships with a lot of these organizations for ten or 15 years," says Harriet. "It's natural to cultivate relationships with people who align with your values." Specifically, these organizations work to instill young people with a sense of purpose and self worth—so their alumni are likely to already possess the fundamental qualities of strong, gutsy leaders.

The Next Generation Leaders program builds on these qualities through an intensive combination of work experience, leadership seminars, outdoor team-building training, and an international travel experience. The young leaders are brought to Grand Circle Travel for a seven-week paid internship, during which they receive focused skills development and periodic performance reviews from supervisors who have demonstrated strong leadership skills themselves. This year's seven candidates are currently working in various departments including marketing, print production, finance, and client services.

During the internship, the leaders are participating in a series of weekly sessions entitled, "Developing You: The Leader." At each session, a different leader from the community meets with the students and shares his or her personal story of leadership development. Speakers include Alan and Harriet Lewis, Grand Circle CEO Nick Lento, Robert Lewis of the Boston Foundation, and the graduates of the 2007 Next Generation Leaders program. "I wanted to introduce them to people they wouldn't normally be exposed to," says Foundation Manager Serah Makka, who played a key role in organizing the program. "I wanted to show them that the values espoused by Grand Circle can take them far in the wider world, too—and that leadership lessons can help them not only in their immediate future as college students, but also for the rest of their lives."

To experience these lessons from a less traditional perspective, the group has also attended two outdoor training events at Pinnacle Leadership Center in Kensington, New Hampshire—the Lewis' 400-acre facility that uses a hands-on experiential learning model to train groups in teamwork, risk-taking, and leadership. During one of these events, Brian Gannon, the Foundation's Database Coordinator and a mentor to the Next Generation Leaders, witnessed a special moment between two polar opposites: "firecracker" Myesha, and soft-spoken Jamel. "Myesha basically led Jamel up the ropes course," says Brian. After noticing what little input they were hearing from Jamel, Brian, Harriet, and Serah decided to send the duo up again—this time with Myesha blindfolded. "Jamel talked her the whole way through to the top," remembers Brian, "and they performed even better than the first time around."

At the end of July, the program will culminate with a nine-day journey to Tanzania. "We are so glad we can offer the opportunity to see another world beyond Boston," says Harriet. "While I always love learning about other cultures and ways of life when I travel, I usually end up learning a lot about myself, too. I hope this trip to Tanzania will help these young people better understand just how wonderful they are and how much potential they have." In addition to a classic African safari experience, the students will visit local villages and meet their peers at local schools. They'll also participate in a community service event.

The Foundation is proud to support these extraordinary young people, who have the drive, dedication, and heart to become their generation's gutsy leaders. We'll share reflections on their journey in our August 2010 E-Newsletter.