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Equipping the Next Generation of Leaders

May 25, 2023

Loft Leaders Academy is a new teen program offering at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. Currently the program is based at ImaginOn and serves teens in grades 7-12. Loft Leaders Academy incorporates each of the Library’s programming priority areas (Learning, Literacy, Creativity, Community, and Leadership & Life Skills). This program was designed to equip teens in grades 7-12 with leadership and interpersonal skills to be successful in life, work, college, relationships, and beyond. 

Loft Leaders Academy began in the Fall of 2022 when new staff member, Breeana White saw a need for increased resume-building opportunities for local teens. She sought to discover new ways to use library resources to help teens build social capital through service-based, community-conscious youth leadership development.

The Loft Leaders Academy application opens to a new cohort twice a year in the fall (September) and spring (February). Each accepted Loft Leader will be required to commit to attending and participating in all aspects of the Academy. There are only 10 open slots per cohort.  This program, like all library programs, are free and only requires a commitment of time.

Mission

To equip teens with leadership and interpersonal skills to be successful in life, work, college, relationships, and beyond. 

Vision

To create spaces of learning and opportunity to foster potential in young leaders and make an impact in our community through service-based leadership. 

Statement of Purpose

The Loft Leaders Academy exists to bridge opportunity gaps and increase social capital in urban youth through educational workshops, mentorship, and service-learning.

Program Breakdown

Phase 1 (4 months) – interview process, program kickoff, and monthly educational workshops on the foundations of leadership

  • Each applicant is invited to interview. During the interview process, applicants are given an interview tips sheet with interview questions to study. This experience is intended to give participants a feel for what they should expect during a job interview.
  • The program is kicked off with an orientation night. All family members are invited, Leaders and parents get to meet each other, and any questions participants have are answered.
  • Most workshops materials come from the Powerful Youth leadership curriculum. 

Phase 2 (4 months) - Leadership in Action: monthly meet ups to plan cohort service project, loft mentorship program, Leadership Gala

  • Cohort Service Project: The final group activity of the Loft Leaders Academy is the planning and execution of a cohort service project. During Phase 2, Loft Leaders will perform a community needs assessment and learn how to plan a service project. Loft Leaders will use skills learned in Phase 1 and a SMART goals model to assess resources, identify a need, and plan how to effectively meet that need. 
  • Loft Mentorship Program: This is a separate, partner program to the Loft Leaders Academy. The mentorship program meets once a month and connects teens with a group of background checked mentors in various career fields. 
  • Leadership Gala: Participants are celebrated, and their achievements are recognized in a gala that takes place at the end of Phase 2. The Gala will feature community leader guest speakers. The Gala will also be an opportunity to reflect on each participant's progression towards their individual leadership goals. The Gala is a formal event intended to introduce participants to the experience of participating in a classy event and to set the standard for the excellence we know they can achieve.

Flight Fund

Because of the Flight Fund, our pilot cohort, Cohort 1, was able to utilize a budget to help plan and organize their service project. The teens had never worked with a budget before and were able to get some first-time experience pricing out supplies. Cohort 1 decided to partner with Roof Above to deliver sandwiches to our neighbors experiencing houselessness. Flight Fund money was also used for Cohort 1’s Leadership Gala. Catering was provided to serve our Leaders, their families, and our community leader guests.

Cohort 3

Applications for Cohort 3 of Loft Leaders Academy opens on June 5 and closes on August 22 at 5pm. See more here: https://cmlibrary.bibliocommons.com/events/645fd8cc0e0afc41007421d8

Extension Programs

Inclusive Leadership Workshop Series

  • 8-week series, 2x year
  • Adapted Loft Leaders Academy workshops geared towards teens with autism with a focus on executive functioning skills.

Summer Open Workshops

Outreach Programming

  • 1x workshops upon request

Testimonials

“I am thrilled and relieved to meet other parents & have my son make new friends.”

-Inclusive Workshops Parent

“This program has been a great confidence builder for my daughter. She always looks forward to going to leadership class with Ms. White”

-Cohort 2 Parent

“This class was outstanding. It pushed my son to thinking about situations that he might come across in the future.”

-Inclusive Workshops Parent

[Loft Leaders Academy] has provided a safe space for him to look forward to coming to for friendship, mentoring, and love.’"

-Cohort 1 Parent

“Loft leaders showed me how I could lead my group into action and how to plan everything out it was an amazing feeling to also have my new friends/teammates work with me on this project where we all take turns of being leader I would like to thank loft leaders very much for this experience.”

-Cohort 1 Loft Leader

“I had some concerns starting the program. Would my child be able to work with their peers? Would their learning disability allow them to achieve the leadership goals of the group? Can my child really become a leader? The answer is YES to all these concerns and I am so very proud of them. Thank you making these opportunities available. Thank you for supporting the self esteem of kids with disabilities. Thank you for teaching them the value of helping the community and being a part of the solution. Thank you for being you! Without the library and it's fantastic programs that only happen because of the fantastic librarians, our lives would not be so enriched in learning, growing and love!”

-Cohort 1 Parent