SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Local high school-bound students look to become freshmen leaders on their campus after attending the annual Summer Leadership Camp for Central Coast Future Leaders.
They had a celebratory banquet Friday night at the Santa Maria Veterans Memorial Hall for the dozens of local teens from Santa Maria, Guadalupe and Lompoc that completed the one-week camp at UC Santa Barbara.
"You had 70 kids that came and everybody is a friend, we know each other", said 14 year old Adam Lazaro who will attend Lompoc High School, "we have these things calls familigia's , which means family, and in each family everybody is from a different school and you get to know them really well and you have a lot in common."
The CCFL Summer Leadership Camp includes peer-to-peer team building, problem solving and public speaking amid a spirit of mutual respect which fosters self-esteem and confidence.
"Its going to help me because I was actually shy a lot but now I'm motivated to be energetic and show people to not be afraid to be yourself and show that you can be a leader", said 14 year old Angie Jimenez who will attend Pioneer Valley High School.
Patricia Solorio is moving on to a new job after serving as Executive Director of CCFL in Santa Maria for 12 years.
"It's a pride in culture and making sure they know that they can make a difference", Solorio said, "that they need to be active participants in creating change in their community."
Central Coast Future Leaders is a youth-led organization that has a student board which sets its own agenda and curriculum and has sister organizations modeled after it in Santa Barbara, Ventura, the Bay Area and San Diego.
"I don't think that we give young people enough credit, they can contribute and they can be active participants", Solorio says, "they are critical thinkers and they can think outside the box and talk about issues that adults maybe haven't thought of."
CCFL alumni often go onto college and rewarding careers, many come back to share their experience as team leaders to those following in their footsteps.
"My son was very hesitant years ago when he first started to the point where he didn't want to go", said parent George Moran who attended the banquet Friday night, "after coming back he didn't want to leave it until he left college, UCSB, he was actually very heavily involved even throughout the years at UCSB."
CCFL offers a path to the future at a pivotal time in life.
"I try to motivate people to stand up, volunteer, participate so that they won't be afraid to show their voice", said Angie Jimenez who wants to attend medical school and become a pediatrician, "because some people need to show their voice so they can be heard."
"I just want to help people be leaders and we have some kids at our school that need this program", added Adam Lazaro, "it changes people, it changed me, I used to be mean, but now that I got to come and show my expressions, it's actually changed my life."
Student-led on-campus recruiting typically takes place in November.
For more information on Central Coast Future Leaders go to www.ccfutureleaders.org.