Jake Freeman and Laura Schlichting said they had to be dragged kicking and screaming -- not literally, but close -- to Institute for Cultural Communicators events near their respective hometowns of Forest Hill, Md., and Colorado Springs, Colo.
Half a decade or more later, the teenagers have emerged with the leadership and communications skills they believe will serve them well in college and beyond.
Today, Freeman and Schlichting are part of a six-month interns team that will help put on a three-day Communicators for Christ Conference next weekend at Woodland Park Baptist Church.
The faith-based conference is geared to teach children ages 11 and older leadership and communications skills. It will give them general skills in public speaking, an ability to analyze information and ways to communicate their ideas.
"Many people know what they believe," Schlichting said, referring to their faith, "but they don't know how to talk about it. This will help them prepare for those moments when they're asked about what they believe without offending other people or damaging relationships."
Freeman, 19, said his training, for example, allowed him to lobby in Washington, D.C., for a higher-education bill he thought had merit.
"It doesn't have to be something as big as that," he said. "It can be going to your local community or your library. It's the impacting of one person. Someone can become involved on their own terms."
Schlichting, 18, said she became involved with the Murfreesboro, Tenn.-based organization (iccinc.org) at age 13 "because my mom made me."
She's stayed, she said, "because I see [her work is] making a positive impact on the culture. We're training our generation how to be communicators and leaders."
Similarly, Freeman said he was 13 when his mother entered his room, woke him up and told him he was going to a communications conference.
"l was a shy and introverted guy, so I was pretty nervous," he said. "When I got involved, I realized it was actually possible to have fun and learn at the same time."
The internship, which began July 1 and continues through the end of the year, has enhanced those skills as they have traveled around the country, the pair said.
Freeman said the experience has heightened his ability to collaborate and to think on his feet.
"Traveling with 11 interns can get quite interesting," he said. "It's amazing the different situations that occur."
Schlichting said her internship has helped her to understand the value of follower-focused leadership.
"An authentic and good leader," she said, "is focused on how to serve the needs of their followers."
By now, both teens said, they have learned to know when the conferences are reaching young people.
Freeman said the moment comes when he see participants develop into good communicators and begin to take initiative, while Schlichting said the moment comes when they start showing enthusiasm for communicating their ideas and their passion.
Both say, though, that such skills are not for the few.
"Everyone can do this," Freeman said.
Contact Clint Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...