MERRILLVILLE | Nadia Duke is a junior at Merrillville High School with a passion for her community and learning about the world around her. She balances her responsibility as the Director of Cultural Affairs in Socially Together and Naturally Diverse (STAND), a server in a local restaurant, three AP classes and a 3.89 GPA. She excels in her literature and history classes and loves to learn about the world’s diverse ethnic makeup and cultures. She plans to help women of color around the world make their own safe spaces for their intellectual growth.
Since January, I have had the privilege of participating in one of the best leadership programs for the youth of Northwest Indiana. The South Shore Leadership Youth for Community Engagement (SLYCE) Program has opened up many doors for me, both tangible and intangible. I recall my days before the program started in my numerous leadership positions, finding it difficult to step in front of people and give speeches or facilitate discussions, but now, commanding attention doesn’t leave me a shaking mess. Now I love sharing my experiences with people and initiating firm handshakes with important people in my community. I relish in it, and it’s all thanks to the wonderful experience SLYCE has given me.
Every session gives me something new to reflect on and utilize in my own life. I leave out of the session feeling more confident in myself, and hopeful about the future of Northwest Indiana knowing that my fellow inaugural SLYCE classmates will soon be out making changes in their own communities, as well. I get a new sense of excitement each month that demands that I get active in my community in whichever way I possibly can. The wonderful adults that coordinate this program always make sure it hits home that the problems in our communities should not be ignored and it is every NWI citizen’s duty to take action.
Each session we are introduced to key people in the NWI area and learn from their experiences. I always get something different out of their unique but relatable experiences and August’s session was no exception. I was enthralled by stories of modest beginnings, overcoming adversity, and following one’s passions. I made sure to take notes whenever a phrase or mantra struck me, which happened frequently.
Following the session in July, we dived in depth into our service projects. My group, public transportation, ran into an obstacle of setting a goal. What was beautiful about it was that, even though it was apparent that we were getting a bit anxious and worried as ideas were passed around with no set decisions being made as time wore on, we were able to look at our goals clearly, collaborate with each other, and leave the session with a set goal that we all agreed on. Depending on how one looks at it, everything is a learning experience.
I am thankful to the South Shore Leadership Center for giving me this opportunity to grow as a leader and take these lessons with me wherever I go, whether it’s Merrillville, Northwest Indiana, another state, or even the global community. I have made new friendships, reflected on my personal and professional relationships in a new way, and most importantly, honed my craft as an effective leader. Hopefully, by the time I graduate in December, I will have made more gains in leadership, with the understanding that there is always room for improvement and growth, a concept taught to me by the SLYCE Program.