Institution teaches leadership skills
February 2, 2009 5:39 PM
Imagine being hoisted atop a 40-foot tree or the equivalent to standing on the head of a tyrannosaurus rex at Fort Miley Military Reservation in the Presidio. As your every nerve tightens you realize the people who got you in this predicament are a group of high school students.
The Pacific Leadership Institute at SF State will tell you this is one of their oldest and more popular teaching tools for building self-esteem and leadership skills.
"God forbid you have high school students looking after the well-being of other people," said Ben Kumli, a graduate student and member of the PLI.
"Society in general frames this as a dangerous situation, but we are breaking down those stereotypes," Kumli said.
Kumli, who has worked with the PLI since high school, decided to attend SF State because of his involvement with the program.
"I'm an example of how powerful this program can be," he said.
PLI is part of the Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism at SF State, and focuses its program on youth empowerment and leadership development.
As an umbrella organization, the PLI is involved in five different community programs and serves over 11,000 participants each year. It also trains over 100 youths to lead its programs and offers training annually to over 1,000 people working in community and youth programs.
All programs cater to the size and needs of a number of participants that can range from Google employees to juvenile hall inmates.
"We take people out of their normal environment and create an adventure learning arena; active learning," said Drew McAdams, chief of programs for PLI.
One popular program is called Adventure Challenge Course, which uses different challenges to encourage team development and leadership skills at Fort Miley and Camp Arroyo located in the Bay Area.
In an effort to teach problem solving and leadership skills, PLI will place its participants in trust activities before introducing them to a challenging ropes course. By using the skills taught in the trust activity, participants are reliant on other team members to climb up to 40 feet above ground.
About 70 percent of participants come back to the program, according to McAdams.
California State Parks, San Francisco Unified School District and Golden Gate National Recreation Area are just a few key partnerships that enable the institute to pay staff and run the program.
The 28-year-old program has grown and developed from a merger with Fort Miley Adventure Ropes Course and Training Resources for Recreation in Urban Environments (TRUE).
After a series of transitions PLI were established in 2000, the organization was recently approved as an official institute with other SFSU Research and Sponsored Organizations.
"It was a long road," said Nina Roberts, the program director of PLI. "The outcome on the youth in the community has been extraordinary."
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