DOWNEY -- Despite muddy roads and slushy mountain grounds, 47 students braved their way through the Pathfinders leadership program from April 23-25 at Camp Whittle in Big Bear.As students from Downey High School, Warren, St. Joseph's, and St. John Bosco's successfully completed the leadership program, the students were able to learn more about themselves as leaders in their society, as well as about interacting with others, through various activities implemented by Pathfinders. "You really see that the students get a lot out of Pathfinders, especially in looking at others differently," said Downey Los Amigos Kiwanis Pathfinder Chairman, Edwin Huber. "When you see that long-term impact on these young adults, it makes you want to keep running the program. It's the mixing of the schools, the cliques, and you are forced to learn to trust and interact with others that are foreign." With the goal of shaping and developing leadership qualities in young adults, the Pathfinders weekend was filled with various activities designed to mold and emphasize particular skills and values. The moment the students were on the bus, assigned seating and icebreaker activities allowed for a breakdown of school boundaries and to get acquainted with others. "I appreciate that Pathfinders allows students from different schools and backgrounds to socialize and to meet," said Esteban Garcia, a junior at Warren. "I've met some very cool people." The first day, after a tough ride up the muddy roads and slight transportation conflicts, the students began with introductions. Then a scavenger hunt, a competition between the schools, had students scrambling around to find answers and objects. After the scavenger hunt, the last event of Day One was the "Colors" activity, where individuals had to identify themselves with a certain color group that best reflected their personas and strengths. "I'm an Orange, and I'm proud," said Kyriaas Psara from Bosco. The second day of Pathfinders revolved around outdoor activities, primarily the low-rope and high-rope obstacle courses. Each activity was physically strenuous and mentally challenging, but the students were able to overcome their fears and learn about themselves in the process. "I enjoyed Pathfinders because it helped me to overcome my fear of heights and through that it showed me that I can overcome anything," said junior Briana Bedran from Warren. Although many students were frustrated at some of these challenging tasks, they eventually came to see the important values taught by these activities. In addition, the once segregate school-based cliques slowly disintegrated as the various events of the program encouraged mingling. "I think it's amazing to see the transformation in students from when they start to when they end the program in this short amount of time," said Karina Madariaga, -President-elect of the Downey Los Amigos Kiwanis. "And how quickly they are able to recognize different qualities in themselves and others and how they will be able to take that and apply it in their futures." The short but productive weekend came to a close with the third and final day. The last activity of the program was possibly the most challenging, yet brought the leaders together more than ever before. All 47 students had to get over a 20-foot wooden wall, and after persistent planning the leaders accomplished their goal. Final goodbyes were said, and group photos were taken before the students packed their bags and boarded the bus back to Downey. Pathfinders is a youth leadership program held annually, and is sponsored by the Downey and Los Amigos Kiwanis, and the Soroptomists.
********** Published: April 30, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 2