Ryan Mentors Youth Leaders

by Alex Keys
Columnist

Since graduating from high school, Winchester, Ky., native Sydney Ryan has spent her summers encouraging leadership at youth camps across the Bluegrass State.
A senior biology major and philosophy minor, Ryan first became involved with the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference (HOBY) when she was chosen by her high school staff to represent the school as an ambassador.

Sydney Ryan

At HOBY, leaders from around Lexington (including local lawyers and entrepreneurs) advise potential leaders on strategies and lessons they have learned throughout their careers. Additionally, the students participate in group discussions and activities designed to encourage positive leadership skills.

After graduating from George Rogers Clark High School, Ryan was invited back to HOBY to serve as a facilitator. For the past four summers she has volunteered to lead discussion groups, run activities and serve as a counselor to the participating ambassadors.

While volunteering takes up part of Ryan’s summer break, she enjoys the opportunity to witness the students mature as leaders over the course of the conference.
“It’s just kind of awesome to see the transition kids make from beginning to end, coming into their leadership styles,” Ryan said.

Through a connection she made at camp HOBY, Ryan soon was offered another position volunteering at Camp Unite at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky. A much different experience than HOBY, Camp Unite serves children aged 9-13 who are at potential risk for drug use.

Camp Unite encourages the campers to find alternate activities by showing children that, as Ryan said, “they can be at home on a college campus, just like any other kid.” Through leadership presentations, sports and other activities, the campers learn to make their own decisions, regardless of their environment at home.

Ryan insists that, despite the difference of age and socioeconomic status between the two camps, her role is surprisingly similar at each.

“No matter their background, kids still need someone to look to,” Ryan said. “At the risk of being cliché, these kids really are our future leaders, and we need to support them, because they will be supporting us.”

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