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Summertime Instills BBYO Leadership Skills

August 2, 2007 By:
Ryan Teitman, JE Feature
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The Philadelphia-area BBYO executive board has benefited from the array of camps and conferences available to teens in the organization.
Most students view their summer vacation as a respite from school -- a chance to leave studying behind, enjoy the weather and chill out with friends. But for others, like Philadelphia-area teens Tyler Harris and Jessica Rose, summer is when they spend some of their precious downtime learning to become leaders.

For instance, at BBYO's International Training Leadership Conference, they were given the opportunity to meet other members of the organization from around the world and, with them, explore how to promote Jewish identity among their peers.

BBYO -- formerly the youth organization of B'nai B'rith -- became an independent group in 2002, and holds a variety of programs each summer to promote leadership, spur identity-building and give teenagers a chance to visit Israel.

Teens are at the stage "where they're searching for what they are and where they fit," said Dave Forgosh, BBYO executive area director for Philadelphia, and the conference can be "very impactful."

Tyler Harris, who is going to be a senior at Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills, got involved with BBYO after local chapter members visited his confirmation class at Congregation Kol Emet in Yardley. He began attending the social events that the group held nearly every weekend, and was eventually elected regional president.

He recently returned from the International Leadership Training Conference held in Lake Como, Pa. As a local BBYO officer, he felt that it would be "necessary to go to a program like ILTC in order to prepare myself for the upcoming year and build up my leadership skills."

"If you work hard enough, you can accomplish anything," he continued. "A lot of people have great leadership skills, but they never have the opportunity to use them. In BBYO, you are given the opportunity to be a leader and do great things."

For Jessica Rose of Broomall, the family connection is an important part of her involvement, and a significant part of the reason why she attended the Lake Como conference. She said that her mother was a member of the group, and her stories made her "more amped to join."

The 16-year-old will be a junior at Marple Newtown Senior High School in Newtown Square, and she credits the leadership training program with helping her become more outgoing and less self-conscious.

And she didn't just return with more confidence, she added. She also brought back a notebook packed with new ideas for fundraising and how to drum up member recruitment.

"They certainly come back charged up and energized," noted Forgosh. "And they do come back with new ideas" -- often things that haven't been tried in Philadelphia. Those new ideas enable members "to enact more programs so they can touch more Jewish lives."

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