Camp turns Naperville Kids into Leaders

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While this might look like a silly camp activity, it’s actually teaching valuable leadership skills. These campers are part of the IWMI Leadership Camp, founded by 17-year-old Naperville resident Ashima Agarwal.

“IWMI stands for ‘I will or won’t make it.’ It stands for a type of attitude we want to instill in the kids but really instill everywhere because it’s really up to us to what we do with our lives, what we do with our decisions,” said Ashima, who founded and coordinated the camp.

After attending several leadership camps herself, Ashima wanted to pass on her knowledge and skills to kids in her own community.

“We should be focusing on education, we should be focusing on making the right type of friends, we should be focusing on growing and expanding our horizons,” added Ashima. “By launching this camp, my goal was really to offer those opportunities to a younger age group so they have the tools to succeed later on.”

In this inaugural year, campers participated in activities like trust exercises, group discussions and team building – all in an effort to learn more about themselves and what it takes to lead others.

“So its been going really good where the kids are realizing ‘hey, I am in control, I have the power within me to decide to be who I want to be,’” said Rick Balcazar, a lead instructor who traveled from California and volunteered his time to help run this camp.

There were 18 kids ranging from age eight to 13 who all took away something a little different from the camp.

“Go ahead and lead your team but always have a plan,” said Zach, who is going into sixth grade.

“I’ve learned that you can’t ever really judge someone and that you have to get to know them first because you have no idea what they’re going through and you can help people who are going through similar things as you,” said Annie, who is going into seventh grade.

“If you think with your head you’re dead, but if you think with your heart you’re smart,” said Rhianna, who is going into fifth grade.

And while this was the first year, Ashima plans to host more camps and would eventually like to start a leadership school – helping build up a future generation of leaders here in Naperville.

Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.