High school students learn leadership at Freedom Academy

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Emily Hulse
  • 151 ARW/PA
Approximately 90 high school students participated in the 52nd Annual Freedom Academy July 28 through August 2, 2013, hosted by the Utah National Guard and the Honorary Colonels Association.

"Freedom Academy is an opportunity for kids who have already shown leadership potential, to come and learn how that leadership is needed in the world," said Maj. Matthew T. Badell, director of Freedom Academy.

Freedom Academy is an annual leadership retreat open to Utah high schools to send two students, typically in student leadership positions. Students spent a week at Camp Williams learning leadership and team-building skills. Many students expressed a greater appreciation for the freedoms they have as American citizens after learning what Guardsmen and other service members do.

Many delegates said that their favorite event was spending time at the Leadership Reactionary Course (LRC). The LRC is an obstacle course at Camp Williams designed to teach leadership skills within groups by exposing them to problem-solving scenarios both above water and on land.

"It's really good for teamwork," said Brendan Henderson, a senior from Grand County High School. "It's really cool to see all these leaders come together and be able to work together as a team."

Delegates also got the opportunity to learn how state government and the legal system is organized and operates through tours of the state capitol and courthouse.

Mitchell Beecham, a student body officer at Cedar High School, said he enjoyed the tour of the courthouse because he is considering going to law school.

"I wasn't sure if I wanted to be an attorney or not, so it was nice to hear from some and hear how their job relates to our freedoms," he said.

Guardsmen who participate as counselors get to participate in all of the activities, and provide delegates with leadership examples.

"These are kids that are the top of their school," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Hood, from the 130th Engineering and Installation Squadron. "It's been really fun, we've been able to show them the freedoms that they do have, and get to see how they learn."

Army Staff Sgt. Lyndsey Prax, with the 128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, said that after six years as a counselor at Freedom Academy, she's noticed that every group of delegates is different, but she is inspired by them.

"These kids inspire us, as counselors," said Prax. "Every year it reminds me why I joined the military and how much I love our country."

Army Sgt. 1st Class Levi Boardman, this year's Freedom Academy first sergeant, said that he hopes that delegates will take the skills they learned at Freedom Academy and apply them the rest of their lives.

"It's been a week that we've tried to pack with as much as we could," said Boardman. "We hope that they can see how their community can help out with freedom and patriotism, and how they can make changes in very small ways, with huge effects."