A summer camp designed to build character — and next generation of business and community leaders

The question did not necessarily have a definitive answer. And that was OK.

The purpose of the question — “Would you lie on a resume to get the job of your dreams?” — in many ways mirrors the goal of LEDR, a most unusual summer camp that takes place every year in New Jersey.

The question was intended to make the camper think about something they had never considered before.

That was the goal of John Kennedy and Dennis Kohl, who co-founded the Leadership Excellence-Direct Results program in 2010.

The program is now part of a weeklong camp held at Winnebago Scout Reservation in Rockaway, and it is the cornerstone of the Team Eagle Foundation, an organization that was formed to educate youth ages 14-20 in regard to real-life programs that can be beneficial in developing their efforts toward college and career.

“We want to mentor youth as they develop skills in select areas (leadership, organization and networking) that will support their efforts in regard to educational/vocational pursuits,” Kennedy said. “This will be achieved primarily through a weeklong camp program based on their participation in the LEDR program, combined with an individual community-based project achieved through mentoring and group support.”

Nominate a camper here

The LEDR program focuses on providing young adults an opportunity to discover and consider career possibilities while developing leadership skills.

The participants are exposed to key values, including integrity and ethics, leadership modules, the opportunity to evaluate their individual self (-confidence, -assurance and -awareness), the role of “community” in everyday life, and cultural and educational diversity.

To meet with success, LEDR participants begin with a concentrated one-week camp program that provides a connection between the participants and community institutions and their leaders. Areas of focus have encompassed; Medical Day, Manufacturing/Engineering Day, Education Day, Criminal Justice Day, Environmental Day, Broadcasting Day, Government Services Day and Technology Day.

Participants have an opportunity to tour facilities, engage in hands-on activities and meet various professional staff to discuss career opportunities and necessary educational credentials in each of the chosen fields.

Special evening programs have been and will continue to be presented based on topics generated by prior LEDR attendees, including Personal Finances (checking accounts and credit cards), Preparing for the Cost of a College Education, and a Women in Business forum.

Kennedy and Kohl are determined to help the kids grow personally, too.

Throughout the week, the participants are challenged to develop and hone their own personal elevator speech — a well-thought-out personal reflection of who they are, what their goals are and how they hope to accomplish these goals.

Additionally, a reserve networking session has been developed, whereby 30-40 adults with varied career paths meet individually with the participants and the young adults interview them on their career pathway.

“We want to prepare them for every aspect of life,” Kennedy said.

All participants attend the camp for free, thanks to generous donations and sponsorship events throughout the year.

Here’s how you can support the LEDR program

Getting nominations, Kennedy said, is the more difficult task.

The recruitment of youth participants begins by requesting nominations from board and committee members, high schools and community/youth organizations and leaders, Kennedy said.

A key component of the program is to provide mentors that commit to support roles for each participant. The diverse experience and qualifications held by the mentors are matched to the interests of the individual youth.

One-to-one and group mentoring is provided to the youth. In many cases, these connections could provide guidance and a scope of reference for future life choices that may not be available in the home environment. LEDR has developed relationships with the Boys & Girls Clubs of New Jersey, the New Jersey Home School Association and New Jersey Junior Achievement to round out its mentor-reach and participant rolls.

The camp looks to bring together boys and girls from diverse communities in the state.

Kohl said the value of the camp to the campers cannot be measured.

“Approximately a decade ago, it became apparent to us that there were many young adults who had not been exposed to various educational or vocational career pathways and were making life choices based on social trends and current family situations rather than potential opportunities,” Kohl said.

“The Team Eagle Foundation was established so that young adults could be afforded a chance to explore and discuss life and educational options that they were not currently being exposed to. The goal was, and is, to lend a hand to these young adults as they develop themselves through different career options and public service while building new friendships and experiencing adventures of a lifetime.”

Kennedy and Kohl hope the experience lives on with the campers. In fact, they give them a project to make sure it does.

LEDR participants are encouraged to perform a special project within a year of completing the camp program that benefits their community and further develops their leadership skills.

Over the years, the camp has hosted more than 300 campers from 19 counties across the state. These youth represent a spectrum of ethnic, intellectual and financial diversity.

“Their interests and abilities are greatly varied,” Kennedy said. “The participants have time during the week to bond with other young adults who have varied life situations and are willing to be open and honest with each other.”

The results, Kohl said, are tangible.

“The participants continue to have a demonstrated history of community service and volunteerism,” he said. “We had returning participants who assist as paid program interns and volunteers. Families have nominated younger siblings to attend based on the feedback of their older children.”

Nominate a camper here