(Photo by Flickr user US Department of Education, used under a Creative Commons license)
According to Delaware Youth Leadership Network (DYLN) founder Margaret O’Dwyer, the organization’s inception originated as “an idea on a cocktail napkin.”
While she’s the first to admit the origin story is a little cliche, the model has attracted some big Delaware names to come speak to the youth during their sessions, including Delaware first lady Carla Markell and Olympians Vicki Huber-Rudawsky and Theresa Andrews.
At its core, DYLN fosters local high school students’ leadership qualities by connecting them to like-minded peers and mentors. O’Dwyer facilitates this by bringing in speakers and community leaders once a month
“There has really not been someone who says they don’t have an hour to give to the kids,” said O’Dwyer, who balances her work with DYLN (pronounced “Dylan”) with being a full-time mom.
But DYLN is more than just a speakers’ series. It’s about developing “think-on-your-feet” skills in public speaking and entrepreneurship. “When you’re trying to sell your business or idea in the future, how do you do that?” O’Dwyer asked. “How do you do that to someone who’s not necessarily buying it?”
O’Dwyer said Delaware is the perfect environment for an organization like DYLN, which essentially operates by establishing networks.
“You can absolutely do some amazing things pretty quickly here,” she said. “You’re literally only a few people away from meeting someone you want to connect to.”
Established in 2012, DYLN just graduated their third class last month. Over the years, the organization has taken in 25-30 high school students each year. Depending on the size of their high school, the enrollment process for students can be super competitive — for the right reasons.
Students apply through their high school, which nominates up to three students for DYLN to review. O’Dwyer then personally interviews every candidate. “It’s a rewarding process, but it’s also very tough because you want to take them all,” she said.
As of now, there have been no tech industry speakers in DYLN’s speaker lineup. O’Dwyer said she’s “absolutely” open to having members from the tech community speak to the students about their careers.
So, Delaware technologists — it’s time to step up. An opportunity to develop future talent is within grasp.
If you’re interested in helping out, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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