Fort McCoy News August 09, 2013

Club helps youth develop leadership, character skills

BY GENEVE N. MANKEL
Public Affairs Staff

A program aimed at developing character and leadership skills is making an impact on middle school and high school youth at Fort McCoy.

The Torch Club, which is a component of the Fort McCoy Child, Youth & School Services (CYSS) Boys & Girls Clubs of America program, promotes good character, tolerance, diversity and inclusion among peers.

Photo 1 for Torch Club story
Members of the Fort McCoy Torch Club volunteered at
the Chasing Daylight Animal Shelter in Tomah as part of
club activities. The youth socialized with the animals
and cleaned kennels.
Contributed photo

Club members learn to lead by example and to be respectful, reliable, responsible and tolerant of others, said Dustin Lakowske, Middle School Teen Lead for CYSS.

"The club is like a mini job setting," said Lakowske. "They (youth) learn how to work as a team and about valuing the opinions of others."

The program is a youth-run club that is guided by adult mentors who empower the youth.

Any youth in the Fort McCoy community who is enrolled in the CYSS Youth Center program can become a Torch Club member, Lakowske said.

The youth then have the flexibility to choose how much of a role they would like to play in the club.

Club members elect a president and vice-president who facilitate meetings, said Lakowske. Torch Club meetings are held at the School Age/Youth Center during the After-school/Summer Camp program.

During meetings, club members discuss and prepare for upcoming activities and events, and determine how to use club funds, he said.

Planning, organizing and executing events exposes club members to important skills such as drafting professional e-mail messages and making phone calls, Lakowske said.

Activities are implemented in four areas — service to club and community, education, health and fitness, and social recreation.

Torch Club member Phoenix, age 11, said the club has taught her how to help in the world and about how to help end bullying.

Photo 2 for Torch Club story
A member of the Fort McCoy Torch Club volunteered at the Chasing
Daylight Animal Shelter in Tomah and socialized with a cat as part
of club activities.
Contributed photo

Past Torch Club events included a Kick Butts Day Carnival to help combat the use of tobacco products and volunteering and holding a donation drive for local animal shelters.

Aubrey, 11, said the Kick Butts Day was her favorite activity. During the event she learned about not smoking or using tobacco products.

Ben, 13, said he learned about the things that happen to people when they smoke and enjoyed working at the booths during the Kick Butts Day Carnival.

The Club won an honorable mention in the Torch Club National Service Project competition earlier this year for their work at the animal shelter. A $500 cash prize was awarded to the club.

The members socialized with the animals, cleaned kennels and collected and donated pet supplies to the shelter, Lakowske said.

Brienna, 12, said she enjoyed collecting items such as dog blankets, treats and toys and donating them to the animal shelter in Sparta. She said club members also got to spend time with the dogs when they delivered the items.

Other recent events included participating in a Strong B.A.N.D.S. mini-Olympics and the Pitch, Hit and Run competition in May. The Club also hosted an "R" Word campaign on South Post to learn about accepting people of all abilities and differences. Youth listened to a local Special Olympics athlete speak, rotated through various learning stations and signed an "R" Word pledge.

In addition to volunteering at the Chasing Daylight Animal shelter in Tomah, the club held a Little Pals program with the youth at the Child Development Center to provide positive mentorship.

Aidan, 11, said he likes volunteering at the animal shelter because he likes to help animals.

For more information about the Torch Club, call 608-388-4373.