The opportunities and training I received from the Baylor College of Medicine Leadership Education Adolescent Health (LEAH) social work fellowship in Houston, Texas were unparalleled. The faculty covered a breadth of topics and provided multiple opportunities for their application. I was amazed at the ways in which working with other trainees and faculty increased my knowledge, skills, and values about the training topics and leadership competencies in such a short period. The mutual investment in a multidisciplinary team helped me to reflect on and find a leadership style of my own.
During my second year as a fellow, I experienced greater opportunities to mentor and teach what I had learned, a process that led to the actualization of my sills. The adolescent medicine unit was a wonderful space to exercise these skills in real time. My licensure as a professional and my growth academically were only made possible by my placement in LEAH. The experience and education I received from this leadership training program were not provided in my graduate education. I am so thankful for programs like LEAH that bring a reality and experiential competent to disciplinary learning.
After completing my fellowship with the LEAH program, I joined Baylor Community Programs, a non-profit training program that teaches future master’s level social work students and offers experiential education/mentoring to at-risk teens in the greater Houston area. Leadership is my profession and has become a way of life for me. I utilize my teaching skills gained from the LEAH program as I interact with social work students.
Our program teaches leadership skills to youth to enhance developmental assets. Protective factors and leadership are instrumental in helping youth to navigate adolescence and develop into healthy adults. The staff, social work interns and teens in our program exercise communication, self-reflection, negotiation, cultural competence, and advocacy skills daily to bring about positive change in the world.
For me, leadership is a matter of legacy and humility. Leadership is the ability to create a space in which each person’s strengths can combine to give birth to new possibilities, solutions, and paradigms. Leadership is the way I connect–to myself, to others, to my community and my world.
The future of any profession lies in its eventual leaders. Teaching leadership in all professions is an important element for future success, from a large governmental organization like the MCHB (Maternal and Child Health Bureau) down to the individual families that make up our communities. Leadership lies within all of us and needs exercise and a space to grow in order for it to emerge. I hope that more organizations and communities will take up the charge to incorporate instruction and application of leadership to youth, the foundation of our future legacy.
Shelley Gonzales, LMSW
Leah Fellow: Baylor College of Medicine 2007-2009