Leadership through companionship

Angela Zook has been working with Retrieving Freedom this semester to train a service dog being used for future breeding in the program. This is Zook's first time working with dogs. —Amanda Groff/TRUMPET
Angela Zook has been working with Retrieving Freedom this semester to train a service dog being used for future breeding in the program. This is Zook’s first time working with dogs. —Amanda Groff/TRUMPET

Two dog handlers learned puppies don’t always want to cooperate after an incident when taking pictures for a Retrieving Freedom calendar. During the photo shoot, 10-month-old Remmy decided it was a better idea to run to the back of a jewelry store than be the cameras’ focus.
Retrieving Freedom and Community Builders are service learning opportunities for students that allow them to discover different leadership skills they have, Dr. Bill Soesbe, assistant professor of education, said.
The two programs are connected to Wartburg through ID 315, Leadership Theories and Practices.
Retrieving Freedom is a program in which students train service dogs in activities and measure their reactions to certain situations.
In Community Builders, sixth grade students and adults from the community come together to talk about what it means to build a sense of community.
“It is an opportunity to hone and refine leadership skills. We really allow the students to personalize the program to them and what they want to get out of it, Soesbe said.
“There are an awful lot of opportunities for students to gain, but there are also a lot of opportunities for students to give.”
Ali Brown had the opportunity to learn and talk with the students in Community Builders about Water to Thrive and other organizations that help people in need around the world. The program helped her learn leadership skills, Brown said.
“I learned to really get to know the people around me and the ways that they lead others best and the best ways to lead them,” Brown said.
“I also learned that it’s not always about me when leading; it is really about building up the people around you and to help them believe in themselves and their leadership skills.”
Mandie Sanderman, school partnerships coordinator, said students who participate in the experiential learning, put learning practice into action. This component of ID 315 gains insight into what leadership styles work best for themselves, as well as how to lead others, regardless of their age group.
“Collaborative working skills are vital in today’s workforce and these programs instill the skills necessary, not only to work together, but to lead work in a positive direction,” Sanderman said.
Angela Zook has been working with the other program associated with the class, Retrieving Freedom. It marks the first time Zook has worked with dogs.
“As leaders, we need to be flexible with our style of leadership. I am not the most patient person, so it has been very good for me to be gaining skills with patience,” Zook said.
Sanderman added there is a strong connection between leading and training a dog and leading people.
“Working with the dogs teaches the handler about positive/negative reinforcement, dealing with frustration, the importance of consistency and clear verbal and non-verbal communication,” Sanderman said.
Helping students broaden their views on leadership builds confidence. That new knowledge is transferable to other situations, Soesbe said.
“It was so great to learn about the different ways of leadership and which of those that I use when I’m leading,” Brown said. “It gave me more confidence in my leadership skills, and now I know that what I am doing is really going to make a difference to those I’m leading.”

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