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Posted December 15, 2008 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Learning leadership: Local student to head to Washington for summit

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Heather Goodrich, 19 a former ambassador in 2005 and family friend, goes over some homework with Furr. Dennis Grundman/Daily

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Sidney Furr, an Indian Hollow Elementary School student, has been selected to attend the People to People Leadership forum in Washington next summer. Dennis Grundman/Daily


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By James Heffernan -- Daily Staff Writer

WINCHESTER -- Ten-year-old Sidney Furr knows that being a leader involves more than just taking control of a situation.

"You have to help others ... whether it's in the classroom or baby-sitting," she says. "You shouldn't be fighting or arguing."

She adds that leadership also means "getting all your work done and being a role model for kids that are younger than you."

The fifth-grader's skills and maturity serve her well as president of Indian Hollow Elementary School in Frederick County, where she helps with fundraising and civic projects, presides over Student Council Association meetings and leads the morning announcements.

And for one week in late June, those same traits should serve her well as an ambassador for her school and her state during a world leadership forum in Washington.
Furr has been accepted into the People to People Leadership program, founded in 1956 by President Eisenhower to fulfill the vision the decorated military general had for producing responsible world leaders and fostering global citizenship.

Leadership summits allow students in grades five through 12 to investigate a specific topic or career interest while building leadership skills, gaining advantage in college preparation, embracing the power of teamwork, and forming friendships with peers from all across the globe, according to the group's Web site.

The fifth-grader will join a select group of students from around the world to study leadership and explore some of the United States' most prominent monuments and institutions.

From Capitol Hill to the Smithsonian Institution, and from Gettysburg National Military Park to the International Spy Museum, Furr and her colleagues will examine the characteristics of leadership during times of national challenge and prosperity, the organization says in a statement.

Forum delegates will also participate in small-group discussions and exercises to experience firsthand how successful leaders develop strategies, make decisions, build consensus and foster change, according to the statement.

Furr was nominated for the honor by one of her longtime teachers, Jared Neal, based on her scholastic merit, civic involvement and leadership potential.

Her mother, Tammy Furr, admits that she hadn't heard of the program until the family received a letter in September informing them of Sidney's nomination.

"At first, we thought it was an ad," Mrs. Furr says. "I was more familiar with the high school [ambassador] program."

But upon closer inspection and research, the Furrs liked what they saw, and they trusted Neal's judgment.

"Mr. Neal is so meticulous," Mrs. Furr says. "I don't think he would put a child through this if he wasn't familiar with the program."

Sidney, an honor-roll pupil who wants to be a marine biologist or a nurse when she grows up, says she is excited about the opportunity that People to People presents, but also a little nervous.

"I won't have anyone to start out talking to," she says.

But social skills shouldn't be a problem for the youngster, who in addition to her studies likes to play softball, hang out with friends and read.

Sidney's family helped her develop a resume "so that people could get to know her a little better," Mrs. Furr says.

Sidney says she's only been to Washington once, as part of a field trip that also included the National Aquarium in Baltimore. But she hasn't seen the places where she and her fellow ambassadors are scheduled to visit during the forum.

Mrs. Furr said as of about two weeks ago, Sidney was the only child in her age group registered to represent Virginia.

The program does come with a hefty price: about $2,000.

"The first thing we did was we sent out sponsorship contribution forms," which raised $700, Mrs. Furr says.

"We felt that despite the economy, there were enough people out there willing to give that we could raise the money," she says.

As part of their agreement with sponsors, the family stipulated that if something happened and Sidney couldn't attend the forum, "We would either refund the money or donate it to a charity," she says.

A local business, the Wingate Inn, also lent financial support, and the family is conducting various fundraising projects to collect the tuition, including a raffle held on Friday for a Christmas box made by a local crafter.

Before she leaves, Sidney must complete a series of study guides and quizzes, including lessons in leadership, American history and the Eisenhower presidency, Mrs. Furr says.
Sidney says by the end of the forum, she hopes to "have more friends" and understand "how to be more of a leader."

For more information on the People to People program, visit www.wlfleaders.org.

  • Contact James Hefferman at jhefferman@nvdaily.com
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