A group of 4-H students from Bleckley County are headed home with enhanced leadership training and soft skills after spending a day with the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Georgia.

High school students from the Bleckley County 4-H SHAPES program spent time Thursday with Fanning Institute faculty learning about a host of topics.

First, the students talked about the definition of leadership and took a leadership styles assessment to find out more about their leadership qualities.  University of Georgia Dean of Students Bill McDonald also shared leadership advice with the students for their next steps.

After that, Senior Public Service Associate Jenny Jordan worked with the students on different soft skills, such as how to shake hands the correct way and introduce themselves properly.

The students then put those skills to work as part of a financial simulation developed by Public Service Associate Emily Boness.

In the simulation, students are given an identity that includes a job, an income, and a family status. The participants then have to make financial decisions and pay for food, housing, transportation, debt payments, child care, and other items like entertainment.

Boness said the financial simulation provides an important perspective for the students on life.

“They are always surprised at how much things cost,” said Boness. “It’s my favorite when they say things like ‘These kids are too expensive,’ or ‘Can I get rid of my pet?’ It lays the foundation for thinking about what is going to happen in the future and how to plan for that.”

Bleckley County Extension Agent Brandi McGonagill said the day served as a great way to teach the students important skills they will need as they move beyond high school before they encounter those situations.

Jade Allen, one of the 4-H students visiting from Bleckley County, said she took a lot away from the day.

“It is very eye-opening to me, especially since I am going off to college next year,” said Allen.

After their time with the Fanning Institute, the group went to take part in team building with the summer staff at the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education & Hotel. Then on Friday, the students visited the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, and the UGA Office of Service-Learning, and they also worked at the UGArden and the Campus Kitchen at UGA.