By Ms. Rachel Newton (AMC)September 17, 2012
Two teens and one adult from Pine Bluff Arsenal's Child, Youth and School Services Center attended the Central Region Youth Leadership Forum in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo, June 25-29. Billy Ray Ashcraft, director of the School Age Center and teen programs at PBA's CYSS, along with teens Thomas Johnson, a 10th grader, and William Boyce, a 12th grader, attended the forum.
"This year, they specifically asked if the directors could attend the forum in order to share some special ideas," said Ashcraft. "PBA was asked to do a workshop at the forum this year."
There were all kinds of activities during the week-long event geared around a community service project, said Ashcraft. "There were a lot of fun aspects to this year's forum," he said. "Fort Leonard Wood has all kind of fun MWR- related activities. We were able to go to the Lake of the Ozarks one day and do some inner tubing."
Ashcraft that it was Boyce's first time swimming in a lake, inner tubing and casting a fishing pole. "We also played paint ball-which was also a first for William, and did some rock climbing, skeet shooting and archery," he said.
This year, PBA was also asked to help out with the technology aspect of the forum. "Last year's technology project dealt with GPS and building bird houses, but this year they wanted to do something more hip," said Ashcraft. "In one side of the gym, they set up the "Rock Band" game with two projectors. It was set up sort of like a talent show and was pretty sweet. On the other side of the gym they set up the "Dance, Dance Revolution" game. They needed sound equipment for this so they asked if we could bring our equipment. We had it booming in there."
PBA's workshop was a great success during the forum, said Ashcraft. "The kids did a great job. This wasn't just something I came up with. We all sat down and planned it," he said. "We wanted to make sure it was a fun workshop that wasn't boring and it was also something they could immediately take back to their own installations and implement. We did an icebreaker, team building and fun game during the workshop in a 30 minute session."
Ashcraft said that about seven out of 30 installations were asked to do individual workshops. "One of the region guys asked us specifically if we could do it," he said. "He said that he knew we had great kids and that we had a great program here. During the staff meeting that was held after the workshop, one of the guys from Rock Island said that PBA's workshop was really fresh and new, and they were excited to bring it back to their own teens. That comment made me feel very good."
It was a neat experience for our teens to see a larger installation, said Ashcraft. "They have never been to another installation, and another youth program," he said. "They got to see Soldiers doing their PT, running on post, and we also got to eat with them. That was neat. They made great friends with a lot of the kids that were there. They also go to see other directors, and realized how lucky they were but they also got to see what they could become with positive growth."