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City leadership program prepares teens for success in life

CARLSBAD — In just three years, Carlsbad’s teen leadership program — Leadership in Training and Education, or LITE — has been and continues to be a success as it helps students develop their leadership, communication and volunteerism skills.
Carlsbad’s Parks and Recreation Department hosts the free after school program, which is geared toward middle and high school students. LITE encourages teens to socialize with one another and participate in service projects in a safe, supervised environment.
“These students are taking away valuable life experience,” program director Michael Bodman said. “We want them to have exposure to different things because a lot of them wouldn’t get that experience otherwise.”
Currently, 30 students are registered in the program and are expected to meet with the program’s leaders at least three times a week, totaling 12 days a month. They are also required to participate in two community service projects per month, Bodman said.
“We do a lot of events in the community — park cleanups, beach cleanups, we volunteer with seniors,” Bodman said. “They really get out into the community often and that’s what we wanted to accomplish.”
The program has a 10-to-1 staff to student ratio, sometimes even smaller, which allows each participant to get the assistance they need, Bodman said.
“We do a lot of things with them besides the service projects, like writing resumes, college preparation and filling out job applications,” he said.
LITE’s service projects and daily activities are scheduled around a monthly theme, ranging from health and fitness to teen issues. On Nov. 29, the group gathered at Pine Avenue Park to kick-off December’s theme of “giving back.”
Carlsbad High School senior Jose Flores, 17, said he enjoys the program because, “I really like to meet other people.” He utilizes the service projects to fulfill his high school community service requirements.
Other students, including Valley Middle School sixth-grader Liam Bryant, appreciate not just the socialization opportunities offered by the program, but also the encouragement to focus on schoolwork.
“I needed a place to go after school that was safe where I could work on my homework,” Liam said. Struggling academically, he joined the program in September and is now a straight-A student at Valley Middle. “It has a lot of advantages.”
Since launching the program, Bodman has received an outpouring of support from parents like Bryant’s, who appreciate what LITE has offered to their kids.
“The parents love it because their kids have a safe place to go that’s run by city staff — you can’t beat that,” Bodman said. “We have kids from different ethnicities, different backgrounds and they all come together; they become a family.”
Carlsbad’s Leadership in Training and Education program is currently at capacity with a waiting list, but teens are encouraged to express their interest should a spot open up. Visit www.carlsbad for more information.