Growing up in Craig, Moffat County High School student Tiffany Lingo hasn’t had much trouble fitting in with her peers. But, she also knows that living in a small town, attending a small school and keeping the same friends for years can have its drawbacks because the kid you didn’t get along with in elementary school might not have changed much come high school.
Luckily, she now has a better understanding of how to cope with clashing personalities throughout school and into adulthood, along with a few other bits of wisdom.
Lingo and Aubrey Campbell recently attended a leadership conference as part of Rocky Mountain Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Craig, the two of them traveled to Estes Park’s YMCA of the Rockies in mid-July.
More than 200 high school students from Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska assembled at the week-long event, where Lingo and Campbell, both 16 and about to enter their junior year at MCHS, were quickly thrown into groups of people who were complete strangers.
The common trait they all shared was a drive to better their abilities as the leaders of tomorrow.
Campbell said the groups of participants worked on listening to each other and recognizing character traits through a game called “True Colors,” in which a quiz revealed what kind of attributes each person possessed.
“You learn to work around all different types of people and still be able to get your ideas across,” she said.
Campbell said she felt shy heading into the camp and was expecting five days of awkwardness. Much to her surprise, she still keeps in touch with those she met there, receiving text messages from camp friends regularly.
“Most high school kids are really judgmental, and if they don’t have to get to know you, they don’t really want to,” she said. “There was not one person there who would judge you, so you could totally be yourself.”
As part of her application essay for RYLA, Lingo wrote of a vision of the 21st century in which people are more accepting of their fellow man. She was pleased to see a group of people who shared that philosophy.
“I’ve never been around that many teenagers and felt so accepted, it was great,” she said. “Since our school is so small, everybody knows everybody, so you’re kind of stuck with how people see you.”
Lingo said she hopes to employ her newfound leadership skills on the student council, as well as on the speech and debate team.
“I feel like I know how to read people, and that will be good for group projects or just in class,” she said. “I learned a lot from the guest speakers there.”
One of the speakers was fellow Bulldog Derek Maiolo, who, after attending RYLA last year, returned as a junior counselor this summer.
Maiolo, 17, and a soon-to-be senior, found the experience this time around even more rewarding than his first.
“It’s exciting to see people transform and connect as a team and bond and make these friendships all in a week,” he said.
As a JC, he was able to get a better handle on true leadership, as well.
“It’s none of the skills I thought I would learn, but it’s like it was better than what I could have ever learned anywhere else,” he said. “What RYLA teaches and what distinguishes it from any other camp is that it allows you to care for people at a deeper level and be able to unite people, and I think that’s what a leader has to be able to do.”
Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org.