Leaders In Training 2018-2019

We just wrapped up this year’s group of Leaders In Training! This year-long once per month series of adventures is all about teaching and practicing leadership, but the friendships that form in this group happen fast and stick deep. Check out the big impact this series had last year! We designed another awesome and exciting year of adventures and we’re thrilled with the 8 LITs that totally bought in to the process of learning to be leaders through the essential practice of self-determination. Check out our monthly adventures!

We kicked things off with some teambuilding and the Giant Swing on the Ropes Course at Hale Reservation in Westwood in May 2018. This day was all about forming relationships within the group and building trust. A few rain showers didn’t stop us from having an awesome day guiding partners through minefields and getting out of our comfort zones by swinging like Tarzan through the trees!

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In June, we practiced navigation and learned some important backpacking skills that will come into play in September like purifying water and hanging tarps. It was a HOT day in the 90’s at Ward Reservation in Andover, MA, but we got some great views of Boston and 2 LIT’s were the first of the bunch to give their Life Story to the group! Thanks for having us Trustees of the Reservation!

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In July, LITs got an intro to kayaking at Harold Parker State Forest. Each LIT was taught different skills like fitting a life jacket, paddle strokes, and how to navigate on the water and then had to work together to put it all together. Daemon got a chance to teach how to put on life jackets, Anthony taught on-the-water formation, and each paddle partner got to teach each other effective strokes. Two more LITs gave their life story too!

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In August, we put those new kayaking skills and self-confidence to use with some younger kids. Our LITs got to practice their leadership by teaching kayaking to some younger students. It was an awesome experience for each person to practice leadership in their own way. We split up roles, people signed up for jobs (like leading us through our opening schedule, making sure everyone had sunscreen and water, paddling a tandem kayak, and more).

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In September, we did the big, brave program: The Backpacking Trip! This is an overnight in the White Mountains with no cell service, carrying everything in on a rocky trail, and spending the night around a campfire next to Sawyer Pond. It was a beautiful, chilly, fall weekend filled with moments of perseverance, bear-bagging, camp cooking, and camaraderie. What an awesome trip! Shoutout to our volunteers, Kyle and Paige, who have been with these LITs since the beginning and gave up their whole weekend to join us and help us! THANK YOU!

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Our October “Outdoor” Rock Climbing day got pushed indoors because of freezing rain, but we spent time identifying some personal goals going forward. What did we want to work on related to leadership for the remainder of LIT? A few more LITs shared their Life Story and it was an awesome reunion after a difficult and exciting backpacking trip.

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At the end of November, we held our Panel Discussion & Family Rock Climbing event at Central Rock Gym again. Two adults with disabilities were willing to share strategies and experiences they’ve had in their transition to independent living, housing, roommates, jobs, and autonomy. It was an awesome environment for LITs and parents to ask questions and figure out next steps after LIT. And of course, we capped the night off with some climbing where parents and siblings were offered the chance to try it too! What an uplifting night!

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Janet and Johann

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In January, after a month-long break for the holidays, we met up again at the Blue Hills. It was a COLD day so we didn’t stay out too long. We did a short hike, had hot chocolate, did skits on how to travel safely in the outdoors, and then stopped by the Blue Hills Trailside Museum on the way back to see some cool wildlife. Unfortunately, most of the animals, as you might expect, were sleeping.

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And last but not least, to close out this year together, we spent an overnight in Durham, NH at The Browne Center of UNH. The Browne Center spans hundreds of acres and has several yurts on the property – one of which is large enough for a group like ours, complete with gas heat and two accessible toilets! We did a Ropes Course with Browne Center staff, had surprise pizza delivered on Saturday night (transported the 1/2 mile back to the yurt via sled) and then closed things out with a solo and ceremony on Sunday morning. Each LIT had a chance to examine where they were at in terms of the personal goals they had set along the way and also had the chance to reflect on how someone else in the group had done. We each took turns to say nice things about each other which resulted in some touching moments, tears, and ceremonial bracelets to symbolize and remember our time together. We’re looking forward to an awesome Graduation to celebrate this awesome group and the times we’ve had together at the offices of Wilmington Trust and M&T Bank, one of our generous LIT sponsors.

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March 14th was our Graduation! A celebration to honor each individual for the contribution they made to this team and the challenges they overcame along the way. Parents, siblings, and friends crowded the room in the Boston high-rise of Wilmington Trust’s office – a proud sponsor of the LIT program and LITs gave speeches, received awards, watched a slideshow, and inducted the new LITs with a welcome gift and handshake. Anthony told the group, “it’s the hardest, but best thing you’ll ever do.”

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