Learning to lead: BCPS student travels to Israel through leadership program

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Erik Anderson

It’s been almost a month since Erik Anderson, a rising senior at Western School of Technology and Environmental Science, left for Israel through the Elijah Cummings Youth Program (ECYP). But, after visiting cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, he’s back in Baltimore County, excited to share his experience.

Boarding a plane from the United States in early July, Anderson arrived in Israel with a group of 11 other students. Over the next four weeks, the students explored the country together, learning about its customs and meeting its people along the way.

“We experienced the culture and tried new foods,” Anderson said. “We also kind of experienced the Jewish religion a bit because the place we stayed at most of the time is an Orthodox boarding school.”

With the students they met at the boarding school, Anderson and the group from America also participated in special bonding activities. From outings to major cities to trips to well-known landmarks, the activities not only brought the students closer together but let Anderson gain several once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

“We climbed Masada, and there was this beautiful sunrise,” he said, recalling an ancient fortification he visited while in Israel. “It’s apparently one of the top things people put on their bucket lists, and I did it.”

IMG_7729Keeping memories like his visit to Masada with him, Anderson will soon begin the third phase of ECYP, a program for building leadership skills among African American and Jewish youth. Over the next year, he will write speeches reflecting on his political activism in the District of Columbia during the first phase and his trip to Israel during the second. He also will present those speeches to members of his community.

“Each of us has to do three speeches to a large crowd,” Anderson said. “That’s how we practice our leadership skills in the third part of the program.”

As Anderson prepares for the last phase of the program, he said he wants to share the impact his trip to Israel had on him. In particular, he plans to describe what he learned from the trip and how it changed him.

“Israel taught me that the world is so much bigger than what I thought it was,” he said. “And it kind of helped me bring myself out of my shell. Like, even the counselors that we had to guide us around the country said that, by the end of the trip, I had come out of my shell and was a different person.”

Apart from the lessons he learned and changes he underwent, though, Anderson said there’s something else he wants to share through his speeches: his new-found perspective.

“Israel helped me realize I can give so much more, not just to America but to the rest of the world,” he said. “So I hope to spread my experience and help other people because of my trip.”

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Gabriela Colmer

In addition to Anderson, Gabriela Colmer, a rising senior at Catonsville High School, also attended this year’s trip to Israel. Previously, Danielle Maduka, a 2015 graduate of Western School of Technology and Environmental Science, participated in ECYP.

Since 1998, the Elijah Cummings Youth Program has helped students develop their leadership skills through two-year fellowships. For more information about the program, click here. See more photos from Anderson and Colmer’s trip here.


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