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Teen Leadership Council gives Ladera Ranch students a voice

STAFF WRITER

LADERA RANCH – Gabriella MacAdam already has a lot on her plate.

A senior at San Juan Hills High School, MacAdam is senior class president, vice president of the school’s National Honor Society, captain of the varsity volleyball team and a participant in the Young Women of Vision Orange County.

But twice a month, MacAdam heads to the Oak Knoll Clubhouse for meetings of the Teen Leadership Council, a volunteer programthat gives students the chance to work on leadership skills while contributing to events and activities.

“We’re trying to inspire other teens to get involved ... not only for our generation but for future teenagers in Ladera,” she said. “It’s never too early to start learning to be a leader.”

MacAdam is one of 26 middle school and high school students in the group, which was formed in 2010.

This year, she is president of the five-member leadership board, which oversees four commissions during meetings – social, events, communications and community outreach.

The group’s activities range from Teen Movie Nights to setting up booths and participating at Ladera Ranch’s signature functions, such as the Spring Celebration and the Harvest Festival.

The purpose of the group is not only to allow teenagers to have a say in the shape of the community, but to mold them into young leaders in the community.

“The thought was to have a good, positive place for teens to get together, to learn these basic leadership skills, to send them out to the community and to be our future leaders,” said Tamara Bush, adviser for TLC since September.

Since 2010, the group has expanded from 15 members to 26. This year, the volunteer organization made changes with the addition of the four commissions, which range from five to seven members.

Everyone gets a chance to present their ideas, everyone gets a voice and a chance to vote. MacAdam said that inclusiveness boosts the confidence of individual members.

“It’s really made a positive difference in people,” she said. “Everyone is getting involved. (They) aren’t afraid to volunteer or speak their minds.”

MacAdam waited for her chance to join TLC after watching her older sister volunteer on the council.

Others, like San Juan Hills sophomore Anya Searle, joined because they enjoy the extra responsibility.

“We didn’t have that many responsibilities, and we wanted to act older than we really were,” Searle quipped.

She adds TLC on top of her commitments to the San Juan Hills junior varsity basketball team, National Honor Society and orchestra, where she plays violin.

The group has come up with some new ideas this school year, including a speaker program that features successful figures in the community, most recently Rancho Santa Margarita City Councilman Tony Beall.

“I think that’s making a big impact,” Searle said.

Bush recently lauded the council’s efforts at last year’s Fourth of July event, where the group collected and sent holiday themed cards to children and their families at Children’s Hospital of Orange County.

The council also recently volunteered to help build a playground for preschool children at The Reserve in Rancho Mission Viejo, Bush said. At this year’s Spring Celebration, the council will run an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids.

“They’re so enthusiastic about coming in and finding out what they can do for their community,” Bush said. “They really enjoy being here. It’s like a safe haven for them.”

The council can be intimidating for incoming seventh-graders, but the more experienced members get them involved immediately, Bush said.

MacAdam said being on the council has increased her confidence and helped her manage all the different activities in which she participates. She plans to study communications in college and recently had an interview with USC.

“I feel I’m more prepared to go into that industry knowing how to communicate with people and get things done in a time-management order,” she said. “It’s taught me how to work with a diverse group of people and manage things well.”

Contact the writer: npercy@scng.com

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