iEducate Delaware: Fostering Student Leadership
On May 1st, we will begin accepting nominations for iEducate Delaware, an initiative to uncover and share the amazing stories of leaders in education across the state. In the days leading up to the launch we will be posting profiles of last year’s honorees and what they’ve been up to since last fall. Rodel invested $2,000 in each of the Honorees’ projects to support their work. Margaret O’Dwyer, an inaugural iEducate Delaware Honoree, founded the Delaware Youth Leadership Network (DYLN).
Neelam Modi, a student at The Charter School of Wilmington and part of the first cohort of DYLN Scholars, shares:
The thought of high school often invokes images of rowdy sports teams and excess homework and loud school dances and the occasional community gathering. As a junior in high school today, I experienced all of this… and more. Last year, a teacher and mentor of mine at the Charter School of Wilmington nominated me for a newfound program: the Delaware Youth Leadership Network otherwise referred to as “DYLN”. I’m not one to hide in the shadows and wait for opportunity to float to my feet; so, instinctively I jumped at the chance to apply.
In early May, with weak knees and sweaty palms of course, I went in for an interview. One question that the panel asked me, I remember, was what I like most about Delaware. Well, I don’t know. I’ve never been asked such a straightforward question before, despite the fact that I’ve lived in Delaware all of my life. But suddenly, it turned out that I did know. Delaware is the second smallest state in the nation and this has its perks. I simply love being able to meet someone completely new at an obscure place (such as a physical therapy clinic when you sprain your ankle playing one of those high school sports) and seeing them again less than two days later at the local supermarket. That’s how one builds friendships, connections, networks! I want in on DYLN.
In late May, I received a phone call at home from an unknown number. I didn’t pick up – who was this stranger calling our house? One minute later, I received a call on my cell phone from the same number. I picked up this time thinking this person seems to know me pretty well anyway. Surprisingly, answering to my inquiring “Hello” was the Founder and Chairman of the Delaware Youth Leadership Network, Mrs. Margaret O’Dwyer. She called to notify me of my acceptance into the program and thus began the experience.
Each month, I listened and learned from some of Delaware’s finest – Mr. There du Pont, State Senator Greg Lavelle, and First Lady Carla Markell to name a few. I attended my first ballet at the DuPont Theatre; I spoke to leaders from Romania, Colombia, Czech Republic, and Turkmenistan; I met an Iraq War veteran and double-leg amputee. I learned what “networking” is.
The Delaware Youth Leadership Network is more than just another set of words on a college application. I obtained a mentor, the President and CEO of Business Development Associates, Inc., Ms. Betty Sweeny. Wow. The relationships I’ve formed with Ms. Sweeny, my fellow DYLN scholars, and the monthly speakers have guided me and will continue to guide me through my future endeavors. In retrospect, I’m awe-stricken by the good fortune that sprouted with this program. I look forward to encouraging Delaware’s younger leaders of today to jump on this unparalleled opportunity, as I have, to become Delaware’s newer leaders tomorrow and in the future.
Founded in January 2012, the mission of the Delaware Youth Leadership Network is to inspire, motivate and develop young Delawareans to become our leaders for tomorrow. With 27 students from 19 different high schools in New Castle County, we launched our program in August 2012. Our focus is to create an opportunity for high school students in Delaware to see their potential as emerging leaders. The ten month program provides exposure to inspirational speakers and mentors who offer different perspectives of leadership, development of key life skills such as public speaking and communication, and the creation of a network of young leaders across Delaware. The enthusiasm and engagement of the DYLN Scholars in our program clearly speaks to the power of bringing together a diverse group of motivated, inspired students. We look forward to celebrating the graduation of the DYLN Scholars of the Class of 2013 on May 1, 2013.