ELON, NC (WGHP) — Ropes and obstacle courses. Miles of trails with challenges. It’s problem solving at its best going on at the Elon Challange.

A group of rising 7th graders in Alamance County are “learning the ropes” you might say, one challenge at a time. While it is a lot of fun for the students, it does have a very specific purpose. According to Reagan Gural, the Alamance Chamber President & CEO, the week long camp is designed “to help them understand the importance of leadership in the community and within their schools.”

The students are a part of the Alamance Youth Leadership Academy sponsored by the Alamance Chamber. The challenge course is part of their Summer Institute which kicks off the two-year program. Here the students learn critical thinking skills and the importance of teamwork.

Cotrayia Hardison is an Elon Graduate Student Intern who knows the course inside and out. “A lot of what we do was teamwork. As a cohort, as schools, as members of an individual school community, there are some ways that we have to figure out how to work together. And so they have the ropes course some other activities and challenges and just figuring out ‘we have this challenge, how are we going to overcome it?’ And so just really cool lessons that they could take from outdoor activities and kind of bring them into improving their qualities as a person and as a leader.”

It’s obvious the students love trying work together. “It took a lot of communication. And then as we grew, like we improved and we like communicate, and we did different things for different times. And another one was the egg drop where that took a lot of communication. Cause everybody had different ideas except we were still kind of like in the same place and still had the same topic,” seventh-grader Maligha Bledso says.

Her classmate Michael Wiley agrees. “I’ve learned about communicating better and that it was really helpful because I don’t get to work in groups too often for a leadership thing,” he said. “It really helped me communicate better. And it was really fun. Being able to work in teams with people to help them out. And for them to help me out.”

This is just the beginning of a two-year journey to help these students overcome some of the challenges they may face, and become the best leaders they can be.

“We want each school to be the best it can be,” said Gural. “And the Alamance Youth Leadership Academy is a great way for these students to have this experience outside of their school and bring that back to their classmates, their peers, their teachers, and the administration, within the school.” 

During the Summer Institute the students design a school leadership plan that they will bring back to their schools in to implement in the fall. The Leadership Academy is a two-year commitment with monthly events happening during that time.