HONOLULU -- Twenty-six teenagers gathered in Hawaii, not to swim and snorkel, but to develop their leadership and team-building skills during the 2015 Installation Management Command-Pacific Region Youth Leadership Forum, June 13-18.
The teens, in grades eight through 12, all hold leadership positions on the Pacific Teen Panel at their respective U.S. Army Garrisons located throughout Alaska, Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Kwajalein and Hawaii.
"To be selected for the forum, the teens had to show evidence of their youth program leadership, as well as … contributions made to their community," said DeAnn Acosta, IMCOM-Pacific Region youth specialist and forum coordinator.
"The Youth Leadership Forum supports the IMCOM Youth Services program goal to promote positive youth development by helping to foster skills needed to become successful and contributing members to our communities," she said.
-- Service oriented. The forum kicked-off on Saturday, June 13, with an assembly and a get-acquainted session for the teens coming together for the first time. Sunday, the teens discussed youth-generated issues they had brought to the forum and selected the Top 5 issues, which would be briefed at the end of the forum. The afternoon and evening provided an opportunity for the entire group to help others.
"During each of our annual forums, we conduct a service-learning project that encourages the teens to work as a team to benefit a specific cause or group," said Acosta. "This year, the teens choose to do their project in support of the Tripler (Army) Medical Center's Fisher House."
The teens planted a garden, organized storage areas, washed Fisher House vans and even entertained children of the families staying at the Fisher House; however, it was how the Fisher House came to be selected for their service project that caught the attention and the hearts of the teens.
The Fisher House and the Children's Hospital were the two finalists, and one had to be chosen.
"Caleb Garcia, a junior at the Yongsan American High School in Seoul, Korea, who has been staying at the Fisher House since December while he battled cancer and had an operation to remove the cancer, talked of how the Fisher House had been a great help for his family during their time there, and that he wanted to do anything he could to support the Fisher House," said Acosta. "When the teens, his peers, … learned that Garcia had also conducted a fundraiser to enable the Fisher House to upgrade its Wi-Fi, they knew they wanted to help Garcia and the Fisher House."
"I gained a sense of understanding and humility during the service project at the Fisher House," said Ma'Kayla Grogan, a teenager from U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii. "Assisting with the cleanup and playing with the children who were staying at the Fisher House really helped put everything into perspective."
-- Team bonding. The weeklong forum included many briefings, classes and group gathering sessions that had the teens spending a lot of time together as a group. The teens did get to participate in some adventurous team-building events as they paddled an outrigger canoe, visited the Kualoa Ranch and conducted a scavenger hunt.
"I have never had the experience of spending so many hours with people I didn't know and creating such an amazing bond with them all," said Colette Anderson, another teenager from USAG-HI.
"The weeklong forum culminated with the teens presenting their Top 5 issues and movie montage to senior leaders from the Installation Management Command Headquarters in San Antonio, Texas," said Acosta. "The teens' Top 5 issues were need for college preparation seminars, lack of Army summer camp scholarship opportunities, CYS Services Staffing (expedite background checks), college visitation assistance for Army youth overseas, and on-post medical facility access for civilians working overseas."
With the completion of the forum, the teens will return to their respective garrisons to share their experiences with their peers and the garrison command team.
"The forum allowed us to be ourselves and have fun while we focused on the task at hand, giving us this skill for the future," said Alexis Brodie, a teenager with USAG-HI. "I will be bringing back to my garrison new team-building activities and a better understanding of the world around me."
(Editor's note: Reilly is director, Public Affairs, IMCOM-P.)