Leadership program uses history to inspire next generation

Back to the future

Posted: Wednesday, April 05, 2006


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  Wensley found herself locked up in history during a recent trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the People to People World Leadership Forum. Submitted photo

Morgan Wensley,11, center, a sixth grade student at Kenai Middle school, and her fellow leadership forum participants kept journals as they visited various site of historical significance in and around Washington, D.C.

Submitted photo

While many students on the Kenai Peninsula used their spring break as a respite from homework, Morgan Wensley, a sixth-grader at Kenai Middle School, actually took on more work — all in the name of better international relations.

“They gathered a whole bunch of people from around the country whose teachers nominated them for the leadership forum,” Wensley said of her trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the People to People World Leadership Forum. “I got to meet kids from different countries and interact with them, and we visited historical places around Washington, D.C.”

The leadership forum in which Wensley participated was coordinated by People to People Student Ambassador Programs, part of the People to People organization founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 to foster world citizenship.

Wensley was nominated for the program by her fifth-grade teacher at Mountain View Elementary School, RoseAnn Keating.

“She’s focused. She takes her schoolwork seriously and she gets along with other students,” Keating said of nominating Wensley for the forum. “I nominated Morgan and two other students. I really feel it has to be an exceptional student for me to nominate them. They have to show a lot of maturity.”


Wensley found herself locked up in history during a recent trip to Washington, D.C., to attend the People to People World Leadership Forum.

Submitted photo

Keating said last year was the first time she nominated students after receiving a letter from People to People. While her other two nominees weren’t able to attend, Keating she was happy to see Wensley make the trip.

Wensley’s extra work started well before she even got on a plane for the nation’s capital. She completed several assignments in which she answered questions about leadership, her personal goals and historical places.

“The assignments got me prepared for what we were going to do. We visited Eisenhower’s farm, and I did an assignment on it, so that really prepared me,” she said.

In addition to completing assignments, Wensley also spent a great deal of time writing letters to peninsula businesses and organizations to ask for financial help to attend the forum.

Quite a few were able to give her some assistance, totaling about $600.

Her Washington itinerary was packed, and the program provided a journal in which she answered questions and recorded her own impressions as she visited each site.

Wensley said the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum made a lasting impression.

“Just the fact that Hitler did all that stuff to people who weren’t like him. We’re so lucky today that we don’t have to go through all that stuff,” she said.

Particularly moving to her was an exhibit called “Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story,” which is intended show how the Holocaust affected children Wensley’s own age. The exhibit is based on writings from young people during that period.

In the journal she kept, Wensley made this entry about what lessons the Holocaust can teach us today: “That there are some people out there that agreed with what Hitler did to those people so we should always be aware and on the lookout.”

Other destinations for Wensley were the Gettysburg battlefield, Colonial William-sburg and various memorials in Washington. She visited the offices of Congress and even got take a special subway train to the Capitol.

“I learned how to be a good leader, and all about historic places, what they mean and why they’re there,” Wensley said.

Days were long and busy. Participants were up between 5 and 6 a.m. and sometimes didn’t return to their hotel until 10 or 11 p.m. Wensley said her group met at the end of the day to discuss the day’s activities, but sometimes they had their meeting on the bus ride home, then it was straight to bed.

More than 250 kids participated in the forum along with Wensley, but they were broken down into smaller groups for the week. In her group, Wensley said, were students from Minnesota and California.

“We had a lot in common. Most of them played sports and stuff,” Wensley said.

Wensley said she learned quite a bit about the qualities that make good leaders and also learned some things about herself.

“I have learned that I am very smart, and so are a lot of kids all over the world. I also learned a lot about leadership, like the different styles and the different pillars of character,” Wensley wrote in her journal. I have spent a week with different kids (from) all around the world and that has made me a more effective leader because we have all learned different things from each other.

“I learned that I should respect other people and I should also realize that I should really respect all the people that have fought for our country.”

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