LEAD: A Parent’s Perspective
I can’t say enough about LEAD, the summer program for Student Statesmanship Institute. If I gain the ear of a parent with a child in high school, they will walk away knowing about this unique opportunity for their kids. I’m a person who tends not to talk that much, but I push the limit here because I’m passionate about the benefits of participating in LEAD. Students who attend can shape their worldview, gain exposure to experiences that most adults have not had, learn more about themselves, and discover their potential.
For over twenty-five years, I’ve been repeating the thoughts of my college friend who said that everyone should be required to wait tables for at least six months and travel to a foreign country because it will add a layer of depth to their life that can’t be learned through formal education. I think I will add a third suggestion to that list—attend LEAD! Students who join LEAD will spend time in the Michigan State Capitol using the rooms to hold committee meetings with “lobbyists” who are actually lobbyists, senators, representatives, or associated with the inner workings of the state political system in real life. This provides valuable exposure students otherwise would not have access to. The legislative track of LEAD culminates with students each giving a speech on the magnificent floor of the Michigan House of Representatives under the watchful eyes of family and friends in the gallery—their voice echoing through the cavernous room.
As a parent, I appreciated the staff, Chaperones, as well as fellow students who created an enjoyable environment that both challenged and enriched my older daughter and son who want to return this next summer. The kids loved it because LEAD draws a wide variety of inspirational speakers from both the political realm as well as the private sector, each telling the story of God’s love and redemption through the lens of their own personal experience whether it be through law, politics, or science. It was memorable the night one devout Muslim spoke to the group about how he came to Jesus in spite of opposition and hardship.
How do my kids feel about LEAD? Well, my twelve-year-old daughter, who is still too young to attend, is counting the months until she can join. My fourteen-year-old son, who finished the House of Representatives track last year, took a trip to Russia with me and wore his LEAD shirt underneath his jacket to Red Square. He’d pull his coat open to reveal the shirt and say, “Dad, let’s take another SSI picture here.” We must have half a dozen of those photos. My kids and wife also enjoy identifying “misquotes” throughout the day—an old LEAD tradition where students highlight sentences that could mean something other than what the speaker originally intended. And finally, the reason my kids talk about LEAD all year long is because they have the deep sense of accomplishment from succeeding at something they once thought they were incapable of doing.
Scott Smith is a three-time LEAD Chaperone and parent of two LEAD students — so far!