Barry McNamara  |   Published July 19, 2016

JKB makes it Monmouth

Experiential education program for high schoolers loves its new home
  • The fourth and final JKB Experiential Education Foundation group of the summer took time out of their busy week to pose in front of the Monmouth College sign. The rising high school juniors attend high school in the DuPage Valley area of Chicagoland.
For four weeks this summer, Monmouth College hosted an experiential education program for rising high school juniors, who each received one week of comprehensive leadership training.

Founded in 1994 as The J. Kyle Braid Leadership Foundation by Colleen Malany and Ken Braid in memory of their son, the program helps students develop into leaders back at their schools.

The students arrive on a Sunday and stay until the following Saturday morning. The fourth and final group of 20 students departed campus on July 16.

“The kids love the campus,” Malany said. “I keep getting asked ‘How did you find this place?’ It’s just the perfect venue.”

And Monmouth officials enjoy having the students on campus.

“Monmouth College is thrilled to have such a great group on campus,” said Ryan Doyle, Monmouth assistant director of campus events. “We feel that the JKB EEF is a great program that gives high school students the tools they need to be successful and make good choices. One of my favorite aspects is watching the group develop throughout the course of the week.”

One element that makes the College a great match for the program is that the students JKB serves are all “college material.” Coming to Monmouth “gives them their first experience of what it’s going to be like to go to college,” Malany said.

It’s quite possible that some of the students could even select Monmouth as that college, as most are from Chicagoland schools. The summer’s fourth and final group was made of students from DuPage Valley Conference high schools, and Malany said that is by design.

“The kids have to be an athlete,” she said of one of the requirements to attend. After the training, Malany said the students “get together all the time. They learn that just because they wear different (uniform) colors, they’re not the enemy. The program naturally creates healthy competition and healthy relationships.”

She added, “The goal is to make a difference, not only in their high schools, but to work with younger students in their feeder schools. They are together with 19 mirror images of themselves. These are kids that are out there on the same path, so they form a type of support group for themselves.”

In addition to their time on campus, the students did team bonding activities at the ropes course at Western Illinois University and at the Two Rivers YMCA in Moline, Ill., where they rowed on the Mississippi River.

At the end of each session, “Students write their own mission statements – what they want to accomplish in the next two years,” Malany said. “Of course, they carry on some of the things our program has always been doing, but they put their own signature on it. They also make a pledge to be drug- and alcohol-free the next two years.”

For the first two decades, the program was held at a ranch in Colorado. Now evolved into the JKB Experiential Education Foundation, the program was in need of a new site two years ago. Malany, who is the foundation’s CEO and executive director, made the decision to move the program to Monmouth College beginning in 2015, and she’s been very pleased with the results.

“The husband of one of my sorority sisters is (Monmouth trustee) Larry Gerdes,” Malany said. “And Larry is friends with (Monmouth trustee) Walter Huff. Between those two, I had a connection with Monmouth.”

Malany said College officials helped JKB make “a very easy transition.” Lacking are the mountains of Colorado, but Malany said it’s led to “an even better program without the view.”

“The kids are together more now,” she said. “Before, we’d have half of them going off on horseback and another half to the ropes course. The kids are bonding more in Monmouth. I can’t say enough Monmouth College. They’ve made everything so accommodating and really invested themselves in our group.”
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