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Sarah Meusburger with Governor Kristi Noem presenting the proclamation designating this week as Youth Leadership Week in South Dakota.

BROOKINGS — The Brookings community has created a Youth Leadership Academy and has gained the support of Governor Kristi Noem for a statewide Youth Leadership Initiative. The program was created by Sarah Meusburger. Meusburger works as the Human Resources Director for Banner Associates, Inc. and also as an HR Consultant for Sioux Falls consulting firm, Alternative HRD, LLC.

The Brookings Youth Leadership Academy was a 10-week program for 7th 8th and 9th grade students. Each week of the program featured a different guest speaker talking about different aspects of leadership. The goal of this program was to initiate discussions with young people about the importance of being leaders, both now and in the future.

The program included the following discussion topics:

The meaning of leadership

The character traits that make a leader

History of leadership

The different types of leaders

What we learn from leaders

The importance of setting goals and working through obstacles

Recognizing stress and identifying healthy ways to manage stress

Cultural diversity, inclusion and appreciating differences

Community engagement: Identifying things you are passionate about and getting involved in the community

Cyber safety and demonstrating caution within online settings

Cyber bullying and thinking before you like, comment or share pictures and posts from others.

Consequences of choices and knowing when to walk away from people or situations

Embracing your individuality and not being influenced to make bad decisions

The importance of humility, empathy and compassion

Teamwork and collaboration

Developing a growth mindset

“This program absolutely couldn’t have happened without the support from the City of Brookings, our five community sponsors and the willingness of all of our guest speakers,” Meusburger said. The five community sponsors included Banner Associates, Inc., Daktronics, Inc., First Bank & Trust, Larson Family Foundation, & Brookings United Way.

In addition to gaining local support, Meusburger requested support from Governor Kristi Noem to generate a statewide initiative. Noem agreed that youth leadership is important to the State of South Dakota and approved a proclamation making August 11-17th Youth Leadership Week in South Dakota. There are two primary purposes of this proclamation and this initiative. First, Brookings wants to encourage other communities to put similar programs in place to prepare young people. Meusburger has shared the program with several communities and has offered assistance in getting programs going. The other purpose is to encourage all community members to take an opportunity to mentor a young person and help them be successful.

“There’s no downside to offering a program such as this. There’s no down side to supporting the young people in the community. They represent a significant part of our community and have opportunities to make huge impacts both now and in the future. Why not take the time to try to prepare them for that? Why not encourage them to set big goals?” Meusburger said.

Although this was the first year for the Brookings Youth Leadership Academy, plans are already underway to offer it again next summer. In the meantime, Meusburger would enjoy assisting any other communities that would like to get a similar program going.

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