When education and experience meet, effective leaders are born.
Because her shoes were full of holes, Heather Kinkel stuffed them with paper when she was a kid.
“I grew up in a household where we didn’t ask for very much help but we one hundred percent needed the help,” she said.
The people that went out of their way to help her family back then inspired Heather’s lifelong habit of looking for ways she too could help others.
“I couldn’t provide everything someone needed but I could provide something someone needed.”
PAVING THE WAY
The community provided help when, as an adult, and a mother of four, Heather’s family lost everything in a house fire.
“I decided at that moment that there are a lot of really tremendous people in our community. It motivates you to start doing a small thing that becomes a great thing. I can’t be a superhero but I can do something,” she said.
For four years, Heather led and encouraged kids to challenge themselves on the Saratoga Regional YMCA ropes course. Last fall, when the SRYMCA decided to restart a teen Leadership Club for the first time in eight years, Heather became the group’s leader.
“People don’t always understand what the Y actually does – they don’t realize we help a lot of people who are in need and struggling,” said SRYMCA Youth Director Kristi Savage.
LEARNING LEADERSHIP SKILLS
An effective leader is someone who inspires cooperation through communication, not domination.
Conversation is encouraged in the Leadership Club.
Heather asks the group questions that allow them to build relationships, set goals, and solve problems. These leadership skills are then put to use to help people in the community.
Leadership Club projects have included hosting holiday crafts, successful food and coat drives. To reach those in need, they’ve worked with the Home of the Good Shepard and community agencies including LifeWorks Community Action and the Harvest Distribution Centers.
“You don’t know what other people are going through so you work harder to help them,” said Saratoga Springs High School freshman Rob Shontz.
GAINING A BROADER PERSPECTIVE
Many of the students in the group have discovered that volunteering comes with unexpected rewards.
“Some people need more help than others and helping people feels good,” said Natalia Soong, a sophomore at Saratoga Springs High School.
They’ve built friendships and new interests outside of school and sports.
“It’s fun to talk to others, get out of the house and get a break from everything,” said Saratoga Springs freshman Hannes Lohse.
They’re also gaining the confidence that comes through a broader perspective of the world and the variety of challenges that the people within it are facing – now, and in the future.
“Instead of therapy, this is what I did. I can get depressed. It helps when I do something for someone else and that’s not just for me,” said Sam Strohl, a freshman at Shenendehowa High School West.
DRIVE-UP FOOD DRIVE
SRYMCA Leadership Club is holding a drive-up food drive on Sunday, March 14 at 2 p.m. in front of the Saratoga Springs branch, 290 West Ave. Saratoga Springs. For more information, follow the SRYMCA on Facebook.