Posts

children leaders, leadership

Teaching leadership: Helping children become leaders and develop strong communication skills

Teaching leadership skills is something every parent hopes to instill in their children. After all, helping children become leaders has many advantages. Kids that develop into leaders generally have a strong sense of self-esteem. Self-esteem provides kids with confidence and the drive to excel.

children leaders, leadership

Kids that develop into leaders generally have a strong sense of self-esteem. (Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels)

As we gear up for the back-to-school season, parents and children alike are saying goodbye to summer and preparing for the changes ahead. After over a year of virtual learning and hybrid classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have announced the return to in person learning. Returning to the in-person classroom will be a change for many, especially children who were young or new to school when the pandemic began.

However, many children are also eager to return to school. Sure, it’s bittersweet saying goodbye to summer, but being around peers again and having daily structure is something many children secretly miss, especially after such turbulent and unpredictable times. In addition to the structure and social aspects of in person learning, school also provides children with the opportunity to take on leadership roles, from leading class discussions and projects to taking on roles in extracurricular clubs and sports, these activities help strengthen and develop those crucial leadership skills. However, school is only one of the many avenues through which children can develop these skills. Perhaps more crucial, is what they are learning at home.

Nurturing and developing leadership skills at home

Many people may wonder: what makes some kids grow up to become great leaders while others grow into adulthood lacking the ability to organize a game of kickball?

Experts argue that certain children are natural born leaders. Some kids are born with an innate ability to take charge and execute on a vision they conceive in their minds. But those same experts also agree that leadership skills can be learned and need not be reserved for the lucky few born with the leadership gene. It is possible to develop leadership skills within all kids – and the earlier the lessons begin, the earlier they develop their leadership style.

teaching leadership, parenting,

You don’t have to wait for a certain age to begin teaching leadership. In fact, the earlier the lessons start, the earlier children will develop leadership skills. (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

Helping children become leaders has many advantages. Kids that develop into leaders generally have a strong sense of self-esteem. Self-esteem provides kids with confidence and the drive to excel.

Leaders also develop strong communication skills. As these young leaders accept greater and greater responsibility, they are required to interact with others. These interactions develop within them stronger-than-average communication abilities that assist them in other aspects of their lives.

teaching leadership

Children become leaders by learning from example. (Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels)

Finally, developing leaders acquire the skill of negotiation and learn how to work with others. As these emerging leaders increase their leadership activity they are placed into situations that require collaboration and compromise – skills that are greatly valued.

  1. Make Leadership Part of Your Child’s Vocabulary: “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” —Peter Drucker

If you’re going to help your child develop as a leader you need to describe what a leader is and does. The best way to do that is to make leadership a term that is used frequently to describe favorable traits. Conversations about leadership can originate when talking about the things other students did at school, the traits of characters in their favorite television shows, or the examples described in books they read or had read to them. Highlight leadership traits such as honesty, perseverance, kindness, creativity, intelligence, etc.

  1. Give Your Child Opportunities to Learn and Exercise Leadership: “All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.” – Albert Einstein

Leadership opportunities begin the moment at which your child begins to interact with other children. Beginning with preschool, through Boys Scouts/Girl Scouts to AYSO and Little League, and into cheerleading and science club – every day provides a venue for your child to put to use your leadership lessons. Be sure to observe as much as possible and provide feedback one-on-one. Remember to praise your child for exercising leadership.

  1. Set a Leadership Example: “Example is leadership.” – Albert Schweitzer

Leadership is best taught by example. Be sure to share your leadership experiences with your child. When possible, bring your child along to view you in action! If you volunteer at the local library, belong to the local Rotary Club or serve as an elected official, share your leadership experiences with your child to give your child something that links your conversations to the real world.

  1. Go Easy on Your Child: “Patience is necessary, and one cannot reap immediately where one has sown.” – Soren Kierkegaard

As your child gets older, peer pressure increases. While all parents wish that children would avoid any form of peer pressure, the reality is that they live in a very difficult world. As a parent developing a leader, what is most important is to monitor your child, communicate openly and describe their actions that may be inconsistent with the acts of a leader. Refer to your conversations regarding the traits of leaders. These conversations may become more difficult as your child grows and becomes more independent. Have faith and trust that your child will respond appropriately when outside of your influence.

You might be interested: How MiLegasi’s founder deals with resilience in children during COVID-19

Latina leader Sara Peña impacts young lives through community empowerment

Sara Peña is a Newark native working toward community empowerment. She strives to empower Latinos, especially the youth, through advocacy, legislature, and mentorship. She is currently the Director of the Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development in the NJ Department of State, as well as the founder of the Boys to Leaders Foundation.

Community awareness 
community empowerment

Sara Pena, Director, Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development at NJ Department of State.

Born and raised in Newark, NJ, Sara has always had immense pride and passion for her community. As the daughter of immigrant parents, from Ecuadorian and Dominican descent, she witnessed first hand the hardships faced by immigrants. 

“I saw a lot of things that would frustrate me in regards to how my mother was treated just because she didn’t speak the language,” says Sara. 

As children, she and her sister would try to share as much information as possible with their parents, but the language and cultural barrier still made many things difficult. 

“Resources were limited and mentors were unheard of, at least to me,” Sara explains. 

Sara soon took on the “adult” role and with that came an awareness of the many complicated issues affecting her family and community. This awareness motivated her to make a change and become an advocate and leader for other Latinos. 

 

Community empowerment

After graduating from college, Sara returned to Newark to volunteer with various local organizations and focus her efforts on community empowerment. She soon began working with organizations like Leadership Newark, whose mission is to be a catalyst to engage, empower, connect and improve the network of community and civic leaders as they each commit to build, strengthen, and serve for the common good.

Sara Pena addressing a business audience (Photo courtesy Sara Pena)

Another amazing organization Sara became a part of and President was LUPE Fund -Latinas United for Political Empowerment. LUPE’s focus is to educate, empower, and engage Latinas to promote leadership and civic service. The organization also collaborates with other women’s and children’s organizations on issues of common interest, such as health and education, in order to advance the Latino community. 

Volunteering with these organizations exposed Sara to women who looked just like her in executive positions, having families and successful careers, and making a positive change within the community. But what really attracted Sara the most about these women was the advocacy work they do as leaders throughout the state. 

As President of LUPE, Sara supported multiple Latinas in both political sides to run for office in NJ (Photo courtesy Sara Pena)

“They worked tirelessly to ensure we had representation in the legislature and our voices would be heard,” says Sara. “My passion was policy work and I was able to explore more of it in the role of an executive  board member and later in 2017 become the President of the only Latina statewide organization in New Jersey! Here was this little girl from Newark NJ now leading one of the most powerful organizations for women in the state.” 

Having other women as role models and mentors propelled Sara forward on her own journey. One of her biggest struggles early on was simply believing in herself. 

“Others believed and saw something in me that not even I could see,” she says. 

Once she began to surround herself with these like-minded individuals, she began to see just how much potential was within herself. 

“I knew if I wanted to make a change it started with me and everything else would fall into place.” 

Youth mentorship 

As a community leader, Sara’s mission to improve the quality of life and the empowerment of the state’s Hispanic community. One major way in which she has been doing this is through her organization the Boys to Leaders Foundation

Launched in 2013, the Boys to Leaders Foundation empowers and motivates young men by providing leadership training, educational programs, and positive personal and professional development. 

Sara was inspired to create the foundation for her son, Anthony. 

“I saw there was a lack of positive role models that looked like him and as a single mother it was very difficult for me,” she says. 

Knowing first hand the importance and impact of role models and mentors, Sara felt it was an imperative need within the community. 

“It is our job to provide opportunities and guidance to the next generation of leaders,” says Sara. “Mentorship changes lives. We must offer them hope, expose them to bigger and greater things outside of what they are used to. Allow our young people to have choices!” 

Through the organization, Sara has been able to see first hand the amazing impact of mentorship and opportunities. A few years after the launch of the organization, Sara was approached by a young man who was then in his senior year of college. He told Sara that if it had not been for the conference he attended in 2014, he would never have known he could apply to Rutgers Newark, join the Honors Society, and travel abroad to study. The conversation went on for about a half-hour and the two decided to continue meeting at least once a year to see how he was doing. 

“He was so grateful and couldn’t stop thanking me for starting the organization,” says Sara, remembering the moment. “Every so often I get these beautiful reminders that the blood, sweat, and tears I have put into this organization is certainly worth it.” 

The organization continues to impact young lives through its various programs and events. Their various partners include: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties, AspiraNJ in Newark, Newark Public Schools, New Jersey Garden State Scholars Program and many more. 

 This year the foundation is hosting their 8th Annual Latino Youth Leadership Conference in partnership with Dr. Diane Hill from Rutgers University –Newark Campus. Additionally they conduct various events throughout the year to educate the parents and youth on topics that are important to them such as Immigration and Financial Aid Workshops. 

“We bring families together so they understand the important role they have in a young man’s life,” says Sara. 

Sara’s goal now is to expand the work of the foundation statewide. 

community empowerment

Members of LUPE – Latinas United for Political Empowerment (Photo courtesy of Sara Pena)

You might be interested: Pitch competitor Tennille Ortiz empowers youth through cake design
Self-empowerment  

Throughout Sara’s years as a professional and community leader, she has learned many lessons about self-empowerment and success. For other Latinas who are looking to start a business or make a career change, she offers 5 tips to live by: 

Be fearless 

Overcoming your fears and getting started is noble, but the true tests of a fearless entrepreneur will be constant, from initiating a conversation at a networking event, severing ties with a partner who is causing harm to the venture, and perhaps failing. One who can fail miserably and not be scared to dust themselves off and try again and again until they are successful is truly fearless. This also applies to starting a career or restarting your next career change.

 Understand finances

Sara Pena has received multiple awards for her community empowerment service (Photo Courtesy of Sara Pena)

Learn how to make your money work for you. Get a coach! Attend a financial literacy workshop 

Grow Personally

Know your strengths and weaknesses and know who to put where in order to make your business a success. You should always seek out ways that work best for you to grow in different areas of one’s life. Whether it is personal or professional development in the end, it all comes full circle. 

Build and Nurture Relationships/Partnerships

All types! (May also come in handy when you are looking for babysitters)

 Self Care

Love Yourself most of all! If you can’t look at yourself in the mirror and be happy with what you see, how can you market yourself/product into the success it should be. Stay healthy, exercise, yoga, mediate…..make the time. Put on a little lip gloss/red lipstick!

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

― Maya Angelou

 

Pitch competitor Tennille Ortiz empowers youth through cake design

Tennille Ortiz, owner and designer of The Ellinnet Cake Collection

Second-place winner of the Latinas SmallBiz Pitch Competition, Tennille Ortiz, is the owner and designer of The Ellinnet Cake Collection, a luxury custom cakes and confections boutique which offers bespoke custom cake designs for special events.  In addition to the boutique, The Ellinnet Cake Collection also offers a cupcake decorating service for birthday parties and other events on their chic and mobile bakery called The Cupcake Carriage.

Passionate about empowering children and inspiring them to leadership, Tennille is utilizing her position to bring opportunities to children, especially those from underserved communities. Though creative cake decorating and baking workshops, Tennille hopes to inspire a passion and drive in the youth and inspire them to follow their goals and dreams in life. 

From hobby to craft

Tennille found her own passion for cake-design toward the end of a seventeen year career in healthcare management. Always having been a creative spirit growing up, Tennille was drawn to cake-design as a fun hobby to pass the time during her maternity leave. She began by taking a few introduction classes at a local bakery. Here she learned the basics and focused on making birthday cakes for friends and family. 

She never intended for her little hobby to become anything more, however soon Tennille found herself spending hours of time reading up on and studying different baking and decorating techniques while also practicing her own baking and decorating skills. As her skills grew, Tennille became more interested in the art of cake design and desired to expand her knowledge even further. 

This is when she made the bold decision to leave her career in healthcare administration and enroll in professional cake-design courses with top New York City designers. These courses helped her master some more difficult techniques such as sugar sculpting, blown sugar art, and 3D sculpting, but still the majority of her craft was self-taught. 

Tennille at work creating one of her custom designer cakes.

From craft to business

A few years later, in 2013, Tennille founded The Ellinnet Cake Collection. The business quickly grew and she was sought out for her clean and sophisticated designs. Her cakes were unique and trendy, inspired by the latest fashions, which attracted a high end following of loyal clients and event planners.

Still, starting her own business came with its own set of challenges. At the same time, learning to navigate these obstacles became incredibly rewarding for Tennille and taught her much about herself and her strengths as a business owner. 

“I’ve learned a great deal about entrepreneurship and have realized what it takes to build a business,” she says. “I think one of my biggest struggles was realizing that it’s very hard to build and scale a business while still working ‘in’ it.” 

Like many new business owners, Tennille wanted to do it all herself. This spread her very thin and affected her business’ growth and her own health. 

“I learned that as much as I love cake design if I wanted a real business I had to let the craft go and focus more on building my business,” says Tennille. 

She has since hired a team to help her with her business and she is working on making The Ellinnet Cake Collection and The Cupcake Carriage a brand everyone will know. 

Another common struggle Tennille has faced is growing her business with very little capital. She soon learned the importance of budgeting and having a solid business plan. 

“We can easily get caught up in fast cash flow and think this is our win,” says Tennille. “What’s important is that every startup saves and put the money back into the business so that your able to grow. The money will come, you have to be patient.” 

You might be interested: Andrea Giraldo celebrates Colombian heritage through coffee

Finding success in giving back 

For a long time, Tennille did not feel successful, even when she had conquered her obstacles and was generating a steady growing revenue. She believed her success would be determined by numbers and reaching specific financial goals. 

It was the launch of The Cupcake Carriage that eventually changed her perspective. After three years of hard work, The Cupcake Carriage was finally launched in June of  2019 as a service to provide instruction on cake design and to help empower and educate young girls and boys, with each workshop designed to deliver a message that sparks leadership ideas. 

Tennille posing with The Cupcake Carriage

Tennille has always had an interest in teaching and empowering our youth and so The Cupcake Carriage seemed like the perfect way to give back to the community. Growing up in the inner city, Tennille witnessed first hand the challenges children face growing up under certain circumstances such as poverty, lack of a good education and mentors, or the lack of resources and tools needed to succeed. She remembers old friends she grew up with who unfortunately were murdered, turned to drugs, or went down the wrong path. 

“I was one of the fortunate ones who didn’t take that path but it’s because of that experience that I have developed a passion to give back to my community,” says Tennille. “My goal is to one day create a program that empowers young adults by teaching leadership skills and opens them up to the world of entrepreneurship.” 

The Cupcake Carriage is her first steps toward that goal. By engaging children in fun, creative activities, such as baking and decorating, Tennille hopes to plant the seeds of leadership in young children and show them that their dreams are possible. 

Since its launch, The Cupcake Carriage has been a success, generating a huge buzz of excitement which has it fully booked into March 2020. 

But Tennille did not recognize this success until a few months after the launch when she received an email notifying her that the largest package they offered had been purchased. 

Tennille aboard The Cupcake Carriage during empowering workshop

“I did a happy dance,” says Tennille. “I was so excited that everyone was receiving The Cupcake Carriage the way they were, that the concept was proven! But then I read the email.”

The email was from someone from Wagner Projects, with whom she had gone to school with and who was inspired by Tennille’s success. In the email her former classmate says:

“I have been waiting for The Cupcake Carriage to launch for 2 years now. I’m making a huge sacrifice in purchasing your largest package, not only because my daughter loves cake decorating but because I am excited to show her what a business owner from Wagner Projects looks like[…] I’m proud of you and your success. I can’t wait for my daughter to meet you.”

This message had an instant and profound affect on Tennille. She pulled over immediately and cried like a baby in her car. It was then that she realized she was truly successful. 

“Despite what people may think, success doesn’t come from money, it comes from serving, giving back, and living in your purpose,” says Tennille. “I met that little girl, and in her, I saw me–a little Latina full of dreams, able to see past her circumstances.”                                                                                                                                                                

New victories and successes  

Competing in this year’s Pitch Competition was the next step for the expansion of The Cupcake Carriage and The Ellinnet Cake Collection. Despite struggling with public speaking and presentations, Tennille decided to challenge herself for her business. And this challenge paid off, winning her second place in the competition. 

“I’m so happy I did!” she says. “Deciding to challenge myself helped me gain a great deal of exposure, a ticket to The Red Shoe Movement and a full scholarship to Rutgers Business Schools EPI Program for urban development! I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity and proud that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.” 

Tennille plans to continue to grow her business and create a brand that not only brings smiles to every important milestone in people’s lives but will also empower children to dream big and be open to a world of possibilities of their own.