The groundwork for Leadership, (Taylor Wilson Thompson, 2013) first started on a playground. Taylor Wilson Thompson, then age 10, wanted to repair broken swings, teeter-totters, and other playground equipment, so her peers could have a safe place to roam and be creative. The problem Thompson faced was that she lacked money to purchase materials for the new equipment. Having no previous knowledge about fundraising, Thompson and her peers asked their parents for help. Their goal was to raise a few hundred dollars through a series of bake sales. None of them knew much of their way around a kitchen, let alone an oven. Yet, together as a team, and with a carefully written plan, their dream became a reality.

Children need guidance from adults, but they also need the confidence to lead on their own. In her book, Leadership: It’s Child’s Play: A Ten Step Guide to Leadership, Thompson, now a high school student, details the motivation that led her to take a leadership role where leadership seemed unlikely. You’ve heard the phrase “Children learn what they see.” Thompson explains that parents can help shape a child’s vision by exposing them to various life experiences. Those experiences can be as simple as allowing them to accompany you to the store, where they can learn how adults interact.

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In 2012, Thompson founded the Taylor Wilson Thompson Family Foundation (http://www.twtff.org). The aim of the foundation is to enhance the activities of youth by awarding small grants to schools in order to improve the social literacy and leadership skills of students. The fund’s objective is to develop leadership within the community. In its’ inaugural year, over 1,400 students benefited from leadership training in over a dozen funded sites. According to its website, the foundation helped create training activities for middle school student government leaders and helped create community service activities for various schools. At the high school level, the foundation helped support national leadership training for junior and senior students preparing for college. The foundation was also central in helping first generation English-speaking students make the transition to improved education and the development of leadership skills.

Students have their greatest opportunity to utilize their leadership skills outside the school. At Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan, students and staff made an impact in the community during a “Week of Caring” by raising over 4,000 pounds of food for the local food mission.

Thompson attributes her leadership skills to her teachers, and to her parents who led by example. Where have you taken a child lately?

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