Ever tried using an eight-sided rope to drop a coffee can into a five-gallon bucket while blindfolded with a bandana?

It’s tough to explain without being able to speak. And it’s even tougher to picture without being able to see.

Call it an exercise in coordination and cooperation without verbal or visual communication.

It was one of a few activities featured during orientation night at Bridgepointe Goodwill and Leadership Southern Indiana’s youth leadership program.

The program — the first of its kind to be featured in the area in the last decade or so — kicked off Tuesday night.

The approximately seven month course is the youth equivalent of Leadership Southern Indiana’s adult leadership program. It essentially teaches young teens — freshman and sophomores from area high schools — that they too can be involved in the community. Additionally, according to coordinator Lisa Walker, the program seeks to cultivate certain leadership skills — such as communication — at an early age.

“We want to show them that they can become involved in the community now,” Walker said. About 10 students are participating in the program in its inaugural year.

They’ll attend various conferences on everything from business, networking, history and even entrepreneurship. Additionally, those participating will be required to give 30 hours of their time to community service, which could include anything from attending local government board meetings to becoming a certified lifeguard. They’ll also have the option of attending workshops on learning styles, career exploration, resume development and public speaking.

It will give the youth a sense of the daily goings on in their community, Walker said.

But why do that?

“We don’t want to lose our people,” said Donna Riley, executive director of Leadership Southern Indiana. The program will help local youths get connected with their local community, she said. That way, perhaps young people won’t be so ready to leave the area once they finish high school and look to the horizon to start their careers.

Leadership Southern Indiana offers a workforce development program for adults. That program offers similar communication, business and networking instruction for area business people. The youth and the adult program will even cross paths at one point during their respective curriculums early next year during a “simulated society” conference in January.

Leadership had a youth program about 10 years ago, said Riley. Both Leadership and Bridgepointe felt it was time to reconstitute those activities.

Young people have the energy, the optimism and the work ethic for the program, Riley said. “If you give them an opportunity, they’ve got it.”

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