HINCKLEY — More than 200 middle school and high school students from across the state gathered on the Good Will-Hinkley campus in Hinkley for an overnight learning adventure. The annual Leadership Education Conference, held Oct. 20-22, gave students the opportunity to learn about and practice important leadership skills.

One of the highlights was Escape from Gilligan’s Island: a survival scenario that put the students’ teamwork and problem-solving skills to the test, according to a news release from JMG. Their only means of escape was to try to build boats out of a pile of discarded material. Teams of students created their own boat designs, constructed the vessels, and finally launched them to test their seaworthy-ness.

“There are more than 70 JMG programs in Maine’s public schools and in each program the students elect officers to lead them in civic and community service work. Every year those officers get a fantastic opportunity to come to LEC and practice effective communication, problem-solving, team-building, and other leadership skills that they will bring back to the rest of the class,” JMG Regional Manager Matt St. John said in a news release.

The group Boys to Men talked with the boys about violence and the importance of being aware of your emotions, while Hardy Girls Healthy Women shared information about leadership and being empowered with the girls. Students also worked together to develop community service-learning plans for the school year, and took part in a speed networking activity where they discovered what it takes to market oneself.

Justice Cunningham is an eighth-grader from Freeport Middle School. She said, “I’m a good leader in small groups of people that I know. I came here to find out how to communicate with new people. I learned that a good leader has to ask everyone’s opinion, so that everyone can be heard,” according to the release.

JMG is a statewide, private nonprofit working with students who face barriers to education. JMG provides 5,000 students a year with the skills and experience they will need to succeed in high school, post secondary education, and careers. JMG graduates become engaging members of their communities, productive adults in the workforce, and contributors to Maine’s economy.

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