The nature of a boot camp is intense. The endurance-tests force participants out of their comfort zones and, for those who persevere, result in a positive change.
"Boot camps are hard. They're rigid. They're disciplined. And oftentimes, that's what missing from community service and grass roots organizing," said Renee Cross, associate director of the University of Houston Hobby Center for Public Policy. "There's a thought that anyone can go out there and rally the team and target their issues, but there's a little more finesse needed to be really effective."
The Civic Engagement Boot Camps are a series of workshops designed to hone community leadership.
Speakers with demonstrated leadership and expertise in public, private and non profit sectors will lead day-long workshops, guiding participants through exercises on building collaborations, articulating positions, developing representation and working with the media.
"These boot camps are a way to introduce a more professional, but heartfelt approach tocommunity service," she said. "Even though emotion can go a long way, particularly when dealing with governmental structures, you have to have a well-planned argument. You have to articulate it professionally. You have to learn to listen, especially to people who have different perspectives, which is something essential to leadership."
The workshops are not for the faint of heart, and Cross admits some of the exercises at the boot camp may make some, more introverted participants feel uncomfortable. She says that is part of the process.
She adds there is much to support in a city like Houston, and these boot camps build advocates.
"We're introducing community service to the students, but my goal is to make it a lifelong commitment."
Civic Engagement Boot Camps are part of what's happening at the University of Houston.