Last month, 20 high school students from Palmer Home for Children packed their bags and headed to Mississippi State University for a week of learning, growing, and dreaming about the future at LeaderSTATE. This unique camp specializes in cultivating tomorrow’s leaders by building confidence, providing career guidance, encouraging strong character, and instilling inspiration to carry them into the future. Students from both Palmer Home campuses arrived on the university’s campus and geared up for an action packed week of excitement and fun.
Throughout the week students formed close bonds with each other and with their camp counselors in a variety of ways. Days began bright and early at 6 a.m. with group exercise sessions. Nothing says “bonding” more than a brisk morning jog with fellow sleepy-eyed friends followed by breakfast together in the dining hall.
Daily seminars focused on different aspects of leadership, each complete with a speaker and practical workshop. Days ended with group dinners in the dining hall, free time at the campus recreational area, the Sanderson Center, and a devotional speaker highlighting the spiritual side of leadership.
Highlights from the week included an art seminar that focused on “The Essence of Me.” A local Starkville artist led the students in a three hour workshop addressing questions such as “who am I?” and “what makes me great?” The artist challenged students to look within themselves and gain a better understanding of their personalities, their strengths and weaknesses, their God-given talents and skills, and to examine their feelings in relation to their life experiences. After a time of introspection, the students painted a facial expression on canvases they felt represented their personalities and reflected upon how their personalities will help shape their futures. Students were delighted to learn more about themselves and enjoyed the opportunity to express themselves through art. At the end of the week, the students presented their painted canvases to members of the Palmer Home staff and explained the meanings behind them.
Another highlight of the week took place at the FedEx Corporate facility in Memphis, Tennessee. Students watched as packages arrived into the facility, moved and sorted down the line, and eventually departed the facility on airplanes according to their final destinations. FedEx executives met with Palmer Home students and shared personal stories from their childhoods and encouraged the students to consider their career potentials. Students were inspired by their conversations with the executives and asked poignant questions about which life skills were most helpful to them along their career journeys, what helped them succeed when faced with challenges, and how their careers at FedEx changed their lives.
Students also spent time at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Students soaked up the historical content displayed at the museum and discussed the importance of standing up for what is right in the world today. Students and counselors discussed the importance of integrity in leadership at length and counselors debriefed the students about the importance of civil rights in our past, present, and future. They left the museum both solemn and filled with hope that their lives of leadership will help create a brighter and more beautiful future for generations to come.
One final highlight of the incredible week spent at LeaderSTATE took place at the Mississippi State University Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach at McCool Hall. Students toured the envelope-pushing facility and were inspired by the creativity and inventiveness overflowing within its walls. Students learned about the process of starting a business and were amazed to hear stories of students who launched successful businesses while still in school! Their financial literacy class as well as their public speaking seminar further impressed upon them the importance of education and the unimaginable potential stored within each of their hearts and minds.
The students had an impressive and inspiring lunch with Hagan Walker, CEO and Co-Founder of the innovative glow-in-the-dark ice cube company, GLO. The Mississippi State University alum offered students insight into launching a start-up company and detailed his path to success and the extensive resources available to students within the state of Mississippi.
The week at LeaderSTATE proved to be both inspiring and powerful. Back at Palmer Home for Children, students continue to learn more about themselves, their interests, strengths, goals and dreams. The Palmer Home staff will keep encouraging students to pursue their dreams and challenging them to be brave and bold in their pursuit. The leadership skills developed and honed at LeaderSTATE are woven into the fabric of life on campus at Palmer Home throughout the year and the confidence grown at LeaderSTATE will continue to empower and inspire these incredible students for years to come.