As a teen, I craved attention. I wanted to know that my life had significance. Yet, the message I received from the world around me said that I was at best a nuisance. I remember dreaming of doing something significant, but never really thinking it was possible. All that changed when I experienced leadership training from a childhood mentor one summer. I felt I was able to achieve anything after that summer experience.
Summer Leadership Academy (SLA) is a program inspired by my own story. The development I received as a teen must be given to a new generation of student leaders. Some of our youth experienced similar dream crushing upbringings. SLA is designed to encourage hope for the future and to give confidence building exposure through role models and opportunities. Much of SLA is based off of the Great Commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt 22:37-40). Our passion for the Great Commandment has lead us to focus on the foundational values, 1) spiritual formation, 2) servanthood/acts of love, and 3) love for neighbors/strangers.
With these core values in place, the goal for SLA is to provide cultural exposure, leadership development and service opportunities for students in order to promote longevity and sustainability in Oasis of Hope’s youth development processes:
- Cultural Exposure – We are providing strategic opportunities to enlarge the worldview and perspective of our student leaders. We want to help our youth see what’s possible when motivated by love and faith. For example, youth will attend a diversity training at Bridges as well as experience racial & economic diversity by attending St. Jude, Slavehaven, art shows and cross cultural service projects.
- Leadership Development – We seek to provide spiritual, character and vocational training to enlarge the understanding and competencies of our youth. We want to help our student leaders become more functional in their faith. For example, our business professional mentors are teaching the students many of the business essentials to succeed in the workforce.
- Service Opportunities – Our students are experiencing the workplace in an on-the-job setting serving as interns at Chick-fil-A and Oasis Appliance. In addition, many served as volunteer leaders at our Summer VBS program and other outreaches designed to stretch their leadership muscles and grow in this essential aspect of their lives.
The six week curriculum is based around:
- Love for God (acknowledging the creator)
- Love for Self (knowing one’s value)
- Love for Others (engaging community)
- Acts of Love (the importance of service)
- Love for the City (stewardship)
- Social justice and Community Development (equity for all)
One of our teens involved in SLA told me that it’s time for them to give back to their own community. She was so encouraged by her leadership training that she couldn’t wait to find a way to invest in others. The teens are learning the power of Gospel to give them purpose and confidence. Every lesson learned and every time they serve, our student leaders grow in many unanticipated ways. One student even told me that he wanted my job. It was then that I knew our leadership training was working.
“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” – 2 Timothy 2:2
We are really thankful for Chick-fil-A and Oasis Appliance and furnishing for hosting interns from SLA last year! Their partnership has provided the opportunity for three of our student leaders to have part time work and the ability to develop work history as they move towards adulthood. While we are able to train student leader to develop professionalism and character for the workforce, without strategic partnerships with local businesses we could not fulfill the vision of Summer Leadership Academy. If you are able to host an SLA student intern for 6 weeks at your local business next summer, we can deliver a highly motivated and accountable young leader to your team! Partner with us by making an impact on our city’s youth!
Martell Hixson, High School Youth Developer, Oasis of Hope
If you would like more information regarding this specific ministry, contact Martell. Stay up-to-date by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter and Instagram, and checking our website for detailed information.