July 25, 2008
Eastwood "Graduate" is National Leader
He's only 12, but former Eastwood student Dominic Massaro has already attended his second national leadership event. In June, he traveled to Washington, D.C., for the Junior National Young Leaders Conference, sponsored by the Congressional Youth Leadership Council.
Dominic, who will enter North Side Middle School next month, was one of only two students from Indiana and 250 nationwide invited to study the important role of leadership throughout history and to prepare to become a future leader.
Elkhart student Dominic Massaro
A year ago he traveled to Hawaii with People To People, an educational travel organization that focuses on teaching young people about the different cultures of the world. The goal of People To People is "to promote peace through understanding."
During that trip, Dominic spent two weeks in Hawaii traveling with 40 other students from northern Indiana. The group met several times prior to the trip to study and plan for the actual tour.
This summer marked Dominic's first time to travel alone.
"It was a little more out of the box," explained his mother, Donna Kott. "He had to fly alone, and he didn't know anyone at the conference."
Dominic admitted he was a little nervous getting on the plane alone. "But once we were in the air I was okay," he said. "I knew I couldn't go back."
The young leaders visited several Washington landmarks, including the Lincoln and the Vietnam memorials, toured the grounds of the White House, and visited Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, which was Dominic's favorite part of the trip.
"Although it's hard to pick a favorite," Dominic noted. "It was all a lot of fun."
At Harpers Ferry, the students were divided into three groups—soldiers, local townspeople, and medical personnel at a hospital camp. Dominic portrayed a Confederate soldier, learning the history of the Civil War battle site and how to march and load and carry a rifle.
The soldiers also played a version of Capture the Flag, which Dominic won by discovering the hidden flag. He then got to carry his "trophy" back to camp.
"What was interesting is that to be eligible for the army, all you had to do was prove you could hop on one leg, and have all your hair and all your teeth," Dominic reported.
The students also attended a variety of classes, learning positive leadership traits and studying the country's history.
They also participated in a group project, developing a marketing campaign to promote recycling world wide. The groups then had to present their campaign to the entire conference. Dominic's campaign was titled NRG.
During a study of the Fifth Amendment, the students participated in a mock trial. Dominic portrayed the owner of a company that does research on animals. Animal rights activists were trying to shut down his company claiming it was cruel to animals.
Some of the other activities included touring the new Newseum, spending the night at the Maryland Science Center, and eating dinner at the Hard Rock Café in Baltimore.
Dominic said he brought home more than photographs and memories. "I gained some leadership skills," he stated. "We talked a lot about character, teamwork, communication, respect, problem solving, and goal setting.
"I learned if there's a roadblock or I get knocked down, I just need to get right back up again and find a way around it," he continued. "Being a good leader means never giving up on what you believe."
Eastwood sixth-grade teacher Kelly Kielce said she noticed Dominic possessed some unique skills, but sometimes had difficulty expressing them. That's why she nominated him for the leadership conference.
"Dominic doesn't fit the mold of your typical student," Kielce explained. "He struggles sometimes, yet inside that struggle I saw a student who was curious about the world and who always gives his best.
"He is a student who thinks outside the box," she continued. "There's a whole other layer to Dominic inside. I thought he would benefit himself and round himself by doing something outside of the natural realm of education."
While Dominic has been active in band, football, basketball, baseball, and chess, he also found time, by giving up many of his school recess periods, to tutor kindergarten students at Eastwood. He said he didn't really feel like he was giving up anything since he enjoyed working with the "curious" youngsters.
Dominic said he would definitely recommend the conference to other Elkhart students. "You come back home with a lot of new experiences and leadership skills," he explained. "You also come back with a lot of knowledge about the history of our country.
"And it was a lot of fun," he added. "You make new friends from other parts of the country."
Although he's still young to have a definitive game plan for the future, Dominic does know he wants to join the Air Force and become a pilot. "I love to fly," he said, adding he might also want to become a scientist.
Dominic is already planning to attend next year's National Young Leaders Conference in Boston. His younger sister, Gina, a sixth-grader at Eastwood, has also gotten the traveling bug. She spent three weeks in Rome and Italy this summer with People To People.
"These are great experiences for the kids," Kott said. "We're taking advantage of them now because you never know if these types of opportunities will come again."
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