AUSTRALIAN BUSH FIRES AND SURVIVAL
By Britteny Egan ’13
A few weeks ago the Iacocca Institute of Lehigh University teamed up with the Charter Partners Institute Program of Williams Township to help students develop team building, listening, and leadership skills. The three hour Charter Partners Institute Program was held at the Lincoln Leadership Academy in Allentown.
There were three staff members involved from the Iacocca Institute as well as five teachers from the academy. There was a total of eight mentor teams and about 55-60 students from the academy. The students were 11th graders and the oldest ones in the academy. Since the academy is relatively new, this will be the first graduating class from the Lincoln Leadership Academy.
The Lincoln Leadership Academy first opened in September of 2009. It originally accommodated only grades 6-9, but currently houses students through their 11th grade. The school consists of approximately 250 students and educates students coming from high-risk environments.
The exercise that was set up for the students was based on a survival exercise of a team of young people caught in a bushfire in Melbourne, Australia. In fact, there was a real case of “Black Wednesday Fires” in Australia and 77 people died trying to escape with vehicles that got overtaken by the fire because the gas tanks blew up. Students had to work through this situation and figure out how to survive amidst the fires. One mentor, Lehigh’s Director of Global Lehigh and Director of the Iacocca Institute, Dick Brandt, said that one thing the students learned was that all opinions should be listened to and evaluated before a final decision is made.
Brandt also used to be one of the Board of Director’s for the Charter Partners Program for seven years. Another mentor, Project Manager for Lehigh’s Iacocca Institute, Alexis Leon, said one of the teachers emailed her later saying “that as the kids started "unpacking" what they had learned and putting their new understanding of group dynamics into practice, they were better appreciating what the exercise had taught them.” Leon said, “You have to put theory in to practice to realize what you already know.”
The teachers’ of the program thought that the students really had to face the difficulty of working in a team and making sure to listen to all the differing opinions. Next year, they want to do this program again but in the fall, so the students already get a head start learning to work in teams.
“We do feel that next year we will want to do the survival exercise early in the school year, to better prepare the students to work on their project teams, rather than halfway through the school year when some behavior patterns and methods of working together have already become engrained in the individual team members,” Leon said.
Todd Welch, Trust Adventurer & Co-Founder of Charter Partners, began his effort to help high school students during the summer to become entrepreneurs by the program he ran at his farm in Williams Township. Today, he is one of the owners with his brother Glenn of the Charter Partners Program.
Welch has also been an Executive on the Leadership Panel for Lehigh’s Global Village. The Global Village is a 6-week program that Lehigh holds once a year during the summer to help students from all over the world with team and leadership skills and entrepreneur skills. It represents more than 125 countries and has been going annually since 1997.
The Charter Program is in charge of the ongoing program for entrepreneurs at the Lincoln Leadership Academy. Charter Partners is trying to do an extended version of the curriculum they have been running for 5-6 years out at their corporate farm during the summer where they train 14-16 year old students for one week who wish to own their own company one day. Charter Partners seeks to have this curriculum incorporated into the regular secondary curriculum of a high school.