here are great things on the horizon for this community.

A lot of people will probably disagree with me, and that’s OK. But this week, I’m skating on a rush of hope and positive energy.

It started with this week’s cover story, about a class at Genoa-Kingston Middle School that aims to turn eighth graders into community leaders. One of the ways the class is working on this is by requiring the students to do community service.

What’s great about this is that the kids actually like it. Many of them have done far and away more service hours than required for the class. I’ve seen it before: most kids are natural volunteers. They have boundless energy and they like to feel useful and have a purpose. For pre-teens, the problem is usually just finding someplace that can use young volunteers. Point them in the right direction, give them an outlet, and they’re raring to go.

One of the interesting things about community service work is that it can be addictive. Get a 12-year-old in the habit of volunteering, and he’ll probably still volunteer when he’s 16, when he’s 18, when he’s 25. He will move to a new community and naturally look for some place he can use his time and talents for a greater good. Put him in a situation where he’s not volunteering for a while, and he’ll feel kind of bored and restless.

It is also definitely a great leadership development tool. People who perform community service can see their community with a peculiar sort of clarity that allows them not only to perceive where the weak points are, but to develop creative ideas to address those weak points, and the enthusiasm and energy to rally others to the cause.

When it comes to enthusiasm, energy and creativity, young volunteers just can’t be beat.

After reading this week’s story, I attended a monthly session of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Academy, of which I am a member this year. We’re not kids, but we are also learning to develop our leadership abilities, hopefully to help steer our businesses and communities to a successful future.

Each month, a different speaker or speakers addresses the academy. This month, we participated in a panel talk with community leaders Dave Juday, Cohen Barnes, Brett Brown and Paul Borek. Among a number of other things, we heard about a workforce development initiative by the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation that was really exciting. The speakers also talked about just how far our community has come in both economic development and community spirit in recent years – something easy to forget if you don’t stop and actually take stock of the changes – and about the exciting developments yet to come with new administrations and philosophies on collaboration at Northern Illinois University and the city of DeKalb.

It’s an exciting time to be a part of this community, and I’m glad to share it with you.

Enjoy your MidWeek.

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