Best, brightest attend leadership camp in Hobart
HOBART - The best and brightest high school students gathered in Hobart last week as part of the Four Star Leadership program.
The annual week-long camp invites students from across not only the United States, but also the globe, to spend a week in Oklahoma, speaking with politicians, sports figures and other dignitaries to help mold them into their countries' future leaders. Sponsored by the General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum, this year marked the eighth camp.
"We have an intense application process they have to go through prior to even being accepted here," said Nikki Jones, interim executive director. "They engage with these leaders to help build what we call the four stars of leadership: character, caring, communication and common vision."
The campers arrived Sunday in Oklahoma City, where they stayed during the camp. Wednesday is always a busy day for the group, as the members visit the General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute in Museum and Hobart and get to hear from retired Gen. Tommy Franks himself, along with two other speakers during a panel discussion.
Garrett Saunders didn't have to travel too far to visit the camp. The Binger native was soaking in everything he could during the visit.
"I'm loving this camp," he said. "It's a great experience that's taught me a lot already. I'm learning a lot about having better communication and building my character."
Saunders was surprised when he was notified he had been accepted. He only applied to the Four Star Leadership program after a friend visited a similar camp and encouraged him to do so. In attending, he met fellow teens from 26 states, Jordan and Germany.
"I came here expecting to see a lot of Oklahomans and there's only three of us," Saunders said. "I'm pleasantly surprised to be around people from so many different parts of the country and foreign countries. It gives me a new perspective on our cultures."
When the students got off the bus Wednesday morning in Kiowa County, they were split into two groups. One toured the General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum and the other toured the Kiowa County Historical Museum. Alexis Terry a Milwaukee native had never visited Oklahoma before the camp. She was enamored with the small town.
"There's so much historical information here that really envelopes you in the culture," she said.
Terry described her time with the leadership camp as an "experience of a lifetime" and had a hard time determining her favorite part. She cherished being exposed to so many different people from so many walks of life that she would never meet otherwise.
"I'm blessed to be a part of this experience and to be able to hear from these amazing people," Terry said.
After getting a guided tour of both museums, the teenagers had lunch and enjoyed a karaoke set provided by Richie Rodriguez. Many of the campers took the microphone and sang their own versions of famous songs. After lunch, Franks and his guest speakers Allen West, a retired Army lieutenant color and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida; and Joe Crookham, a businessman, community leader and advocate of safe, energy-efficient, and environmentally responsible lighting took their seats at a panel discussion that took up much of the afternoon.