Purina Leadership Labs expand AYF reach across the country

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The American Youth Foundation continues to connect with new communities across the country. Recently, nearly 50 teenagers in Iowa experienced a taste of the AYF’s mission and values at Purina Leadership Labs.

Michael Harter, Miniwanca Director of Conferences, Community and School Programs, facilitated the leadership workshops with the support of Nestlé Purina. This valuable partnership is rooted in the founding of both organizations (William H. Danforth founded Purina and co-founded the AYF.) and continued company culture.

“Nestlé Purina is committed to increasing engagement with youth in their communities, and they give us the opportunity and space to offer high-quality programming for leadership and youth development.”

During the daylong program, the participants first toured the Purina manufacturing facilities in Davenport or Clinton, Iowa. Then, Harter led them in teambuilding activities focused on leadership and collaboration.

“The leadership lab opens up a world of possibility to youth who didn’t know it is existed before,” he said. “In a short time, it challenges them to question what they know about leadership. It’s not just being in charge. Every young person has the capacity for leadership, and it’s a skill that can be learned and practiced.”

He said the Purina Leadership Labs offer teens a sample of AYF programs, and all are encouraged to attend the weeklong National Leadership Conference.

“NLC and the Purina Learning Lab are both based in experiential education,” Harter said. “The learning labs take place in a short amount of time, but we want to give these students a taste of what leadership development can feel like outside of an academic experience.”

Harter said programs like this are vital as the AYF works to increase its reach and relevance.

“The work of the AYF is not the experience at camp. It’s what a person brings home with them, how they have grown and how they can make an impact on their community,” Harter said. “The more the AYF can reach out into communities, the wider the ideas of best self, and balanced living, and positive community can spread.”