On July 28, 2017, Life Development Institute (LDI) completed its 2017 Emerging Leaders Summer Academy.  LDI began in 1982 and continues as an organization of high moral purpose that provides education to high school and young adult students who have learning disabilities, non-verbal learning disabilities, Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and other social and learning differences.  LDI’s services and focus on the future are driven by students and their needs, recognition of global market changes and its impact on LDI students, and ultimately making a positive difference in the lives of each student and their families.

During the summer of 2017, Emerging Leaders may recall having to journey to Snow Bowl twice for the Arizona Sky Ride and will remember the wonderful evening of Karaoke as well as the fond memories of volunteering for Rainbow Acres.  Difficulty with construction on campus combined with what seemed like daily rain showers helped to form the community and develop bonds between students that exceed the independent living and life skills that were developed.  Additionally, student initiation encouraged the formation of long-lasting friendships with others who may have lived in a pretty isolated state before the summer academy.  Daily walks to the cafeteria, bi-weekly fitness sessions, and evening activities provided ample opportunity to meet and make friends.  From the creation of the following mission statement all the way through the wonderful student statements at the commencement ceremony (which have been recorded and will soon be posted online), Emerging Leaders displayed sincere qualities while developing necessary life skills that empowered them to begin, develop, and maintain their friendships and participation within the community.  

The 2017 Emerging Leaders Mission Statement

The 2017 Emerging Leaders Summer Academy’s mission is to take responsibility for bonding with each other in the spirit of comradery so that we create a fun, honest, loyal, kind, and respectful family who collaborates together by exercising self-control, practicing self-esteem, communicating effectively, and building social skills, which empower us to gain independence.

As such, it is important to also reflect upon the coursework completed by students, as this is where the development of specific life skills occurred.  During 2017, students participated in three courses aimed at employability, leadership, and strategies for success.   First, LDI’s Employability course prepares students for employment by having them learn the importance of creating and completing resumes and cover letters.  Additionally, students discover essential job-searching strategies and skills as well as learn and practice the process for preparing for interviews.  To assist with this instruction, Northern Arizona University’s Career Development Office and Career Development Specialist provided three workshops focused on resume writing, online career search engines, and interview skills.

Second, Leading Inside Out is the summer academy’s leadership course that offers students the opportunity to develop personal leadership skills with emphasis upon self-motivation, self-management, self-discipline, relationships, emotional intelligence, and overcoming self-defeating behaviors.  Mastering life skills in each of these areas enables students to develop a “Personal Leadership Guide” that can be taken from the Emerging Leaders Summer Academy and implemented into their daily lives.  Further, students discovered the importance of multi-generational relationships through their visit to Northern Arizona University’s Native American Cultural Center.  

Third, students gained independent living strategies through Tech for Success.  This course provides students with Phoenix College credit and focuses upon competencies directed by both Phoenix College and Life Development Institute.  Thus, the course provides students with opportunities to learn about and engage with Assistive Technology (AT).  Students develop skills to use both independent Assistive Technology devices and AT that is housed on smartphones, computers, and through Google Chrome.  By the end of the course, students gain skills that encourage their success in both college and careers, which include methods for selecting and developing effective academic strategies, increasing self-awareness, and developing self-management strategies.  Additionally, elements of college resources and relationships with others are explored in support of students` educational experiences.  To enable this exploration, the 2017 cohort’s instruction included visits to both Northern Arizona University’s Disability Resources and the Institute for Human Development.   

At its culmination, the 2017 Emerging Leaders Summer Academy offered students the opportunity to gain life skills necessary for adult daily living, education, employment, physical well-being, emotional well-being, and community involvement.  In fact, LDI’s Emerging Leaders Summer Academy maintains a completion and pass rate of over 90%.  For 2017, students completed with an overall average competency rate of 3.47 out 4.0 in both the Employability and Leading Inside Out courses, and this indicates that they are highly proficient in key life demands related to these disciplines and need only a few prompts or clarifications.  Students also obtained an overall average competency rate of 3.39 out of 4.0 in the Tech for Success class, which indicates that the students are proficient with related life demands but need additional prompts, such as repetition or clarifying directions.   This successful completion of academy courses enables students to have a tremendous success to build upon as they continue to be Empowered for Courageous Self-Expression.  As such, Emerging Leaders shaped their lives in immense ways that have positive impacts far beyond the five weeks spent in Flagstaff, Arizona.      

Life Development Institute is thankful for all the students who were willing to participate in this year’s summer academy.  The joy to work with these developing leaders has truly belonged to LDI’s staff, and it is our hope that the experience the students had in the summer of 2017 enables them to Emerge as a Leader Inside Out!

If you or someone you know is interested in discovering more about Life Development Institute and our 2018 Emerging Leaders Summer Academy, please visit www.discoverldi.com, call (623) 773-1545, and email info@discoverldi.com.