Isanti seventh grader studies leadership in Washington, D.C.

Luke Reiter

Rebekka AlmLike any seventh grade girl, Rebekka Alm can be a little shy sometimes. But Rebekka, an Isanti Middle School student, knows just because you don’t have a showy disposition doesn’t mean you can’t show people the way.

That’s part of the lesson Rebekka received when she attended the Junior National Young Leader’s Conference in Washington, D.C., the week of March 12.

The program, designed for grades six to eight, teaches kids to recognize and evaluate their own leadership skills and put them to use in their communities to make a positive impact.

While in Washington, students are encouraged to study historical leaders, identify their strengths and compare them with their own.

Students in the program are required to choose one of five key leadership traits: respect, character, communication, goal setting, problem solving and teamwork. For Rebekka, communication was the target area.

“That was one thing that I was not very good at was communication, so that helped me improve,” Rebekka said.

Besides their studies, students toured monuments, museums and numerous other D.C. landmarks, including Rebekka’s personal favorite, a tour of the capitol building.

“I had a lot of fun,” Rebekka said. “I had to make a lot of new friends too.”

Not everyone enjoyed the week as much: Rebekka’s mother, Tina, flew out to Washington with Rebekka to make her feel comfortable, but when the time came to leave her daughter behind, Tina found herself struggling.

“It was horrible,” Tina recalled with a laugh. “It was like sending her off to college.”

But by the time Rebekka arrived home, Tina could already see the value of her time at the conference.

“She was definitely different when I picked her up,” Tina said.

And Tina is not the only one to notice a difference in Rebekka: Deanna Boysen, the seventh grade teacher at Isanti Middle School who nominated Rebekka for the conference last fall, said she is seeing the dividends of Rebekka’s trip in the classroom.

“Rebekka is a very strong leader in class,” Boysen said.

Boysen noted a particular difference in a recent presentation Rebekka gave to the class compared to her past presentations, when her peers sometimes had a hard time hearing her.

Looking forward, Rebekka plans to put her skills to use in her own orthodontic practice, and she says she looks forward to working with kids. For now, however, Rebekka gets her leadership practice at home with her twin 11-year-old siblings, Rhea and Robert.