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NEWS | March 21, 2018

Family Programs hosts regional National Guard youth symposium

By A.J. Coyne Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Teen delegates from National Guard Family Programs in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., and West Virginia gathered for the Region 3 Youth Symposium March 15-18, 2018, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Hosted by Virginia National Guard Family Programs, the four-day event included programs designed to develop leadership skills, build resiliency, and identify and offer recommendations on issues National Guard Youth currently face.

“This year’s theme was ‘Growth of Character in Leadership’ and focused on the goals of Leadership Development, Character Development, and Building Community Capacity,” said Joe Duerksen, Lead Child and Youth Coordinator for Virginia National Guard Family Programs, who explained that all of the teens who participated sit on the respective National Guard Youth Councils in their state.

On Friday, delegates toured MacArthur Memorial and Nauticus in Norfolk, where they learned about the military successes and setbacks of leaders in the past. They also researched and presented presentations on leadership figures from history, taking lessons from their lives.

On Saturday, the delegates utilized the Army Family Action Plan process to isolate and propose solutions to three issues- financial readiness/college preparedness, lack of social networking among National Guard youth, and the issue of general Youth Program awareness. AFAP is a tool used to identify critical issues within the Army National Guard and communicate recommendations to upper leadership.

Their recommendations will be considered by each state in the region and, upon revision, will be sent to National Guard Bureau for further consideration.

Saturday included a visit from Brig. Gen. Lapthe Flora, the Virginia National Guard Assistant Adjutant General for Strategic Initiatives, who addressed leadership, resiliency and diversity with the delegates.

“Leadership is all about serving others,” Flora said. “It’s about character and inspiration. If you want to be a good leader, you need to master how to inspire others. People will follow someone they respect.”

Flora shared some of his personal life story with the delegates and reminded them there’s nothing they can’t accomplish. After the communists took over Saigon, South Vietnam, in 1975, Flora spent three years in the jungles before fleeing by boat in 1979 to Indonesia. After spending a year in three separate refugee camps, he arrived in the United States in 1980.

“As you go through life you’re going to have challenges,” he said. “Some things won’t be fair. But if you know what you want to do in life and you want it very badly, you can do it. You absolutely can do it.

“There’s nothing out there you can’t accomplish if you set your mind to it,” he explained. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Education is the key to opening doors. Once you have that education all kinds of opportunities open.”

In addition to the roundtable discussions, the delegates volunteered at the local Red Cross office, where they sorted and packed boxes for the local Veterans Administration hospital.

“The enthusiasm to connect with other National Guard youth and the desire to grow as leaders was a common theme throughout the weekend that ultimately made this symposium a success,” Duerksen said. “Sharing stories, ideas, and common obstacles in order to create a better, more resilient National Guard family is what this program’s mission is about.”

Photos: Family Programs hosts regional National Guard Youth symposium

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