Courageously meeting life’s challenges

600+ middle and high school students and their teachers dove into courage at Siegfried Youth Leadership Program®’s 15th and largest event

Siegfried Youth Leadership Program® (SYLP) is a unique leadership development opportunity for students in grades 8 through 12 with the goal of enriching participants’ personal lives and inspiring positive change around them. The Siegfried Group, LLP (Siegfried), recently hosted its 15th SYLP event at the University of Delaware, in collaboration with University of Delaware’s (UD) Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE), University of Delaware’s Horn Entrepreneurship, and Junior Achievement of Delaware.

More than 600 students and teachers from 26 schools in the Delaware area gathered to learn more about acting courageously in pursuit of their aspirations. Throughout the day, students met and worked with their peers to embrace new concepts, gain a better understanding of how to be courageous, and visualize how their personal experiences and strengths can be leveraged to advance their bigger futures.

“This event has become a staple for me to engage students who aren’t out of their shells that I feel possess leadership qualities,” said Joshua Getka, Teacher at Woodbridge High School.  “SYLP helps students look outside their ‘neighborhood’ to experience different perspectives of their peers.”

Courageously breaking the mold

Since SYLP’s inception in 2016, all of its 10 Delaware multi-school events have been held at University of Delaware’s Clayton Hall, until now. This was SYLP’s first event at University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center, a 5,000-seat basketball and concert arena. The larger space allowed for nearly double the number of teachers and students to attend the event.

SYLP’s student attendees brought energy to the court’s floor seating, filling the tables to near maximum capacity and meeting new friends from different schools. SYLP’s logo on the jumbotron illuminated the space as students engaged in both reflective and collaborative activities, and sparks flew as the event’s guest speakers took the stage. As the day wrapped up, “SYLP” marquee letters served as the perfect photo op, and one of UD’s mascots, Baby Blue, joined the stage for an extra dose of excitement. 

Life is hard, live it anyway

The day began with icebreaker activities encouraging attendees to find the “common thread” they share with others at their table. They were also asked to define what courage meant to them: what it looks like, feels like, and what type of person is courageous.

The event’s MC, Megan Davis, Director of Brand & Communications at Siegfried, started the program by challenging attendees, saying, “Life is hard, and we live it anyway.” She shared that this is done by finding ways to be courageous.

This opening activity segued to a Siegfried-led session focusing on individual leadership, hosted by Siegfried’s Lauren Campbell, Regional Chief of Staff, and Nick Enos, Associate Director. The duo spent time talking to students about how character ethic makes them unique. They gave them time to reflect on what was going well in their lives and what was limiting them. The pair also explored how courage manifests differently in each of us. It can be a bold act of courage or it can be standing up for a deeply held belief. With a conversational approach, the presentation made courage both relatable and actionable.

“There’s a quote that says, ‘Discipline beats motivation.’ You must have the courage and discipline to make a small step in the right direction,” said Enos. “The idea of dreaming one, five, 15, 20-year goals – you just have to get started. And what you’re doing now might not look like what the dream requires in five years. Sometimes that courageous act is just one step in the right direction.”

Students also heard from guest speaker Juan Bendaña, leadership expert, engaging courage and confidence builder, and author. He encouraged the audience to show up every day with the energy they want to convey to the world. He also shared real-life stories of inspiring courageous feats and reminded listeners that fear and courage can exist simultaneously.

“A lot of people sit on the sidelines of their lives, sidelines of their goals, and say, ‘That must be nice for those people. That must be fun. They must be lucky,’” said Bendaña. “As opposed to getting into the game of making friends, getting into the game of trying to go for that sport, getting into the game of starting that organization, that nonprofit, that business that you have no experience in but you can still go for. Having the willingness to put yourself into the heart of the hurricane and understanding that it’s going to be okay.”

Creative courage

To wrap up the day, students were tasked with dreaming up a creative way to express courage. They worked at their tables, many with students they had never met before, on the project. The students faced the task head-on and wowed the audience with their originality. Several groups were brought up on stage to share their rap, song, or poem about courage, while another table led all of the attendees through a courage meditation. One student even flipped across the front of the room to display courage to take on physical challenges!

“I loved seeing some of my students take risks and speak up,” said Patti Pyle, Teacher at Howard High School of Technology. “I feel it’s important to offer these opportunities to as many students as possible.”

Future events

The next SYLP® event will take place on October 15, 2024. More information will be available at