The James River Association was delighted to host Session 2 of the James River Leadership Academy (JRLA) at Presquile National Wildlife Refuge. The students had an action-packed weekend. They were able to travel to the Chesterfield Power Station, participate in team building activities, paddle into the diverse ecosystem of Presquile’s wetlands, revisit Session 1 materials, develop their Capstone Projects, participate in a service project, and network with former JRLA Alumni.

Our weekend adventures started with a trip on the Spirit of the James to Chesterfield Power Station to learn about the largest coal-burning power plant in Virginia. Our students had the opportunity to analyze the benefits and effects of coal-burning power plants. Once the students arrived at the island they settled into the bunkhouse. They got a chance to bond with their classmate through team building activities that allow them to increase collaboration, encourage creativity, and improve communication. We continued our bonding experience with a hike down to the wetland to start a paddle. Our goal was to observe the migratory waterfowl that call Presquile home during winter months.

After the students reviewed the leadership training they received from Session 1, they revisited two assessment modules developed by Innerwill: the igniter module and their core values module. Our students were able to better understand ways to be more effective communicators by adapting to other student’s preferred communication style. They understood this is not about being something you are not, this is about small  behavior changes. We revisited our values module and the JRLA students remembered how they continue to develop as we learn and grow. Each of our values have both positives and negatives; the key is to recognize both then try and minimize the downside of our values while developing the strength and positive outcomes of our values.

The primary focus of Session 2 is capstone development. The students used their time Saturday and Sunday in various exercises to help them develop a greater understanding of capstone focus areas. Students were able to develop a strong foundation for their capstone, by creating goals and a mission statement. Sunday, we started with a sunrise hike to our observation tower to observe the diverse songbird and waterfowl populations the island has to offer. The students then participated in a service project with the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s intern. They planted native bold cypress tree to increases the riparian buffer zone of Presquile Nation Wildlife Refuge.

We were excited to have two JRLA alumni come to speak and work alongside the current students. The alumni who attended this session were Maeve Hall from the class of 2016-2017 and Dylan Rooks from the class of 2017-2018. The alumni shared with the current students their experiences and the resources they gained from their time with the James River Leadership Academy. Lastly, our student departed the island and got a chance to partake in a fish trawl off the Spirit of the James. The trawl allowed the student to measure the biodiversity of the tidal James that surrounds Presquile. We conclude our weekend with a beautiful ride back to Jordan Point Marina.