Four students from Deer Park High School joined 314 other students from Louisiana and several other states for a week-long program designed to teach leadership, a quality which they learned can be manifested in many ways.
The students - Arianna Deleon, Garrett Kneese, Jacqueline Shea, and Deja Williams – were sponsored by Shell Deer Park to take part in the Louisiana Youth Seminar or LYS. The summer camp in its 42nd year and hosted at Louisiana State University grooms the next generation of leaders by teaching valuable skill-building exercises to develop their understanding of true leadership. Tammy Little, Shell Deer Park’s Refinery Production Manager, originally brought LYS forward to Shell Deer Park as a possible sponsorship opportunity after learning about it through its founder Jo Pease. Pease retired as head of Shell US’s Ethics and Compliance group but has always been integrally involved with LYS since its inception.
The Deer Park ‘delegates’, as the LYS students are called, learn important life skills, including teamwork and collaboration, problem solving, and public speaking, that are not necessarily available through a high school classroom experience. Kneese, who has attended other youth leadership programs, offered this observation about the LYS difference: “LYS presents a completely different take on leadership, one which requires students undertake and develop these skills themselves, rather than just being told about it."
Through a series of hands-on experiences, they apply these skills in a group setting, which is intended to illustrate that leadership is not necessarily borne out of position or authority, but personal behavior and action. Shea, a senior at Deer Park South Campus, commented that it was particularly special to her because of the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with other students, a level of understanding and connection made possible through the time shared at LYS.
Deleon added that the notion of acceptance of others without judgment was one of the most valuable perspectives that she gained. "At first, I was a little nervous being in a room with strangers; I would have never known that once I left I would consider them a family. Louisiana is so diverse, which makes it the perfect place to hold a seminar such as LYS."
Williams shared that her time at LYS helped drive her self-confidence and uncover a different part of her self. With high compliments to the counselors – many LYS graduates themselves – and program organizers, the students agreed that LYS provided a singular experience of positive and lasting impact.