GTI 2016: A New Staff, A New Chapter

Over fifty people came together at Camp Christian on March 11-13, 2016 for Staff Development Weekend 1 (SDW1), kicking off GTI 2016 and beginning yet another chapter in Georgia Teen Institute’s story. Each of these individuals are volunteers who make up the GTI 2016 staff, dedicated and committed to making this summer’s program unforgettable for hundreds across the state of Georgia. As the theme of GTI 2016 is “Tell Your Story,”  it is SDW1 that marks the beginning of many new chapters in those stories, both for the individual staff members, the program and the communities that will be impacted for years to come as a result. SDW1 was a dynamic weekend that welcomed a new group of leaders and began their journey toward becoming staff.

Meet the GTI 2016 staff:

Youth Staff – Back row on stairs from left to right: Elaine, Akhillah, Amirah, MaKenzie, Patricia, Haley, MaKayla, Jamir, Saba; Middle row from left to right: Chris, Valencia, Dante, Kyle, Toju, Taylor, Myles, Ndicke, Cleon, Mikey, Jonelle, Amir; Front row from left to right: Jeffrey, Kendall, Katie, Zion, Aulona, Savannah, Dawn, Alyssa, Adriana, Ashlei

Young Adult Staff – Top from left to right: Lea, Quentin, Summer; Bottom from left to right: Brianna, Crystal, Cayce

Adult Staff – Top from left to right: Mandee, Molly, Elliott, Mahuli, Christina, Jessica; Bottom from left to right: Stacy, Adan, Melinda, Tony, Paula, Ari, Trent, Russ

Directors – From left to right: Mary Kate (GTI Director), Sarah (Assistant Director)

Each year during SDW1, our volunteers come together to explore what GTI is all about and learn the fundamentals of the program, expectations of staff members and techniques for building leadership skills. This year was no exception as they hit the ground running and got right to work in a way that truly embraced what it means to be on staff. While they learned and did more than could possibly be summarized here, the most significant things they covered can be remembered as easily as S-T-A-F-F.

S – Strategic Prevention Framework

As GTI is built on the foundation of youth leadership and prevention, the most important thing staff members will do this summer during the program is guide Youth Action Teams in utilizing the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) to plan a project they will implement in their home communities. Not only did staff members become familiar with the ABCs of the SPF PIE, they went through an activity that allowed them to apply the process to a practice situation.

T – Team building

On a typical weekend, most of us probably don’t transport ping pong balls in Pringles cans, navigate through minefields with our eyes closed or build replica Lego structures by memory. Our staff did all of these things during team building activities at SDW1. Team building is integral to SDW1 because it gives the staff a chance to bond with one another, see good facilitation in practice and develop in key areas as leaders. Everyone walked away with essential skills and lessons learned from each team building activity, such as the importance of clear communication, techniques for problem solving and how to work in a diverse group setting.

A – Active listening, saying please, using names and greeting everyone you pass

Throughout the weekend, staff members learned several skills that would help them be exceptional leaders at GTI. Inspired by Michael Brandwein, these Skills of the Day are essential to growth in communication, making new connections and relationship building. Here is what they learned:

  • Be an audience – Participating in active listening encourages the group to stay engaged in the conversation.
  • Learn and use names – Making the effort to learn and use people’s names builds relationships and makes everyone feel included.
  • Greet every person you pass – Greeting everyone you pass is a good way to connect to one another and foster a sense of community.
  • Say please – Saying please makes your request more polite and shows respect toward the person to whom you are talking.

F – Facilitation

Not only did the staff see exemplary facilitation in action throughout the weekend, they participated in a Facilitation 101 workshop that offered the basic fundamentals they are expected to be experts on during GTI. By focusing on the People (developing rapport, ensuring clear communication), the Plan (being prepared, working well with a co-facilitator), the Physical (arranging the room in a way that is inclusive, safe and appropriate for the activities) and the Pause (troubleshooting areas of concern, asking debrief questions), staff gained an understanding of quality facilitation from beginning to end.

F – Family Group, Team Meetings, General Sessions and other parts of a day in the life

In order to get familiar with GTI and learn what to expect during a typical day, staff rotated in small groups to different stations that each covered an important area of GTI. They were able to learn the purpose of that session, as well as their roles and expectations. This offered a unique way to allow staff to dialogue and ask questions about the pieces of GTI that make up the program.


We have an incredible staff that is well on its way to making GTI 2016 amazing. Their story will continue with SDW2 in June where they will develop and grow more in the leadership skills that will help them put on an amazing program. This is only the beginning. We can’t wait to see them in action this summer!

Share This