Katie Drake is a Gifted and Talented Educator, Lone Star Leadership Academy facilitator, and serves on Education in Action’s Board of Educators. She received the following inquiry from the parent of a nominated student: “My son has been invited to participate in the Lone Star Leadership Academy this summer and I am hoping you could give me your input as you are listed on the Board of Educators. He is currently a 5th grader, and as I am in secondary education, I have never heard of this academy nor anyone who has attended from my district. I am hoping you can give me some insight and “confidence” in sending my son on a trip for a week with a group of people I don’t know. (I hope you can understand my concern!)”
I'd be happy to tell you a few things about the camp. I first found out about the camp as a parent when my son was nominated in 5th grade. I learned more about them by visiting the website and visiting their booth at the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented Annual Conference. My son went to the Austin trip that year. I liked the way it was run and decided I wanted to have some of the experience myself, so I asked to become a staff member... of course there was a rigorous process (all staff are certified teachers, background checks are completed, and interviews are conducted). I have worked with the camp for five years, my son has attended twice, returned as a youth counselor and participated in a school-year opportunity for community service. During each experience I've found the organizers (former teachers themselves) to be above the board when it comes to planning the trips and transparency with parents. They will answer any questions you have before and during camp. You will drop off your student at the camp site and can take a look around, you'll meet the teacher/counselors. The students do not bring phones with them (the same as many other camps), but you will see daily pictures and you can call the director any time to check on/speak to your child if you feel the need. I guess, bottom line, I would not stick with the camp for so long if I did not see the value (leadership and TX knowledge) and safety (1:10 or better ratio while traveling and always at least two adults in the dorms) and travel opportunities (think of it as a tourist trip packed with the best places, private tours, and private guides). I encourage my own students to attend. If you have more questions, please ask. Also, the camp organizers are very nice and would be happy to answer detailed questions.
Katie Drake, Gifted Education, Copperas Cove ISD
"I would like to tell you how significant your programs have been for my daughter. We had heard about Lone Star Leadership Academy, but could not imagine how successful your programs could be. Being able to see the photos in the middle of the week was a wonderful, unexpected addition. When she got off the bus that Friday back in Dallas, we thought the stories would never end. She had made such good friends and kept up with them by e-mail throughout the entire school year despite being from such far-flung places as Eagle Pass, Brownsville, and Southlake. But friends were just the tip of iceberg. She retold to everyone all the Texas history she experienced, how cool it would be to be a docent for the LBJ Library, the wonders of waiting for the bats, and every detail she learned at the Texas State cemetery and the archives. In fact, she became our family's historian and tour guide on a trip back to Austin so the rest of us could relive her joy. These experiences were especially important for our daughter because, unlike most going-into-7th-graders, she attends an International Baccalaureate charter school that replaced Texas History with World History. Probably most significant to us, her parents, were the leadership games and exercises: how not to burn bridges, how to manage power, and probably more useful than any other skill, how to appropriately introduce and thank a speaker.
On the heels of such success, who could expect more out of a Houston trip the following summer? We just knew, no matter how wonderful Houston was, it couldn't hold a candle to her Austin trip. Let me tell you, we were wrong. She got off the bus returning from Houston to Dallas with even better stories than the year before and, this time, she took the initiative to introduce us to the friends she'd met. You made the ship channel and its industry and challenges into life lessons our daughter still talks about. She still relives the days in Galveston and NASA. How can you top the best ever? The Lone Star Leadership Academy Alumni Council.
Our daughter joined the Lone Star Leadership Academy Alumni Council in the fall after her summer in Austin. The program was based largely around a service project, however, through the year it became clear that it was more than just a service project. The Lone Star Leadership Academy Alumni Council not only met to assess each other's progress, but to reinforce the leadership skills gained over the summer. Through the Alumni Council, she had the opportunity to make presentations to parents at PTO meetings, use those crucial introduction and thank you skills, as well as offer her services in support of Lone Star administrative needs. Best of all, she and her co-host learned how to put on a fabulous event, Fashions for Funds, and raised over $1,500 for Christ's Haven for Children two years in a row.
As a result of our daughter's initial participation in the Lone Star Leadership Academy program, our school now sends several students to your camps each summer. The Fashions for Funds event has become an annual service project than involves over 25 students, teachers, parents, and grandparents in our school each year. However, beyond that, our daughter is now offered an opportunity to give back in yet another way. By being a Youth Facilitator, we are hoping she brings her leadership skills full circle. She is very excited about the opportunity to return to the programs she has been a part of. She can't wait to share the perspective she gained through her own participation. As her parents, we would like to applaud you and the Education in Action organization and say JOB WELL DONE!!"
-Don and Ann Dunlap, Lone Star Leadership Academy Participant's Parents