12:25 PM

CAP Holds Inaugural Youth Development Conference; Cadet to Speak

Jennifer Gerhardt
Contributing Writer

Civil Air Patrol Cadet Lt. Col. Isabella Mollison, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Overseas Military Youth of the Year for 2019 and a finalist for the National Military Youth of the Year award, is the guest speaker Sunday at CAP's first Youth Development Conference in Atlanta, ,which begins today.

Mollison plans to talk to participants, who include more than 60 CAP cadet program directors, about the impact the organization’s senior members can have on cadets.

“When I turned 13, I joined the [National Capital Wing’s] Mount Vernon [Composite] Squadron,” said Mollison, who had participated in Boys & Girls Club on and off since the third grade. “Being in the seventh grade, I had no interest in aviation or emergency services or anything like that.

"But my dad kept taking me.”

Mollison’s father said she could quit CAP after a year if she didn’t like it. Her experience hinged on the type of senior members she encountered

“They had a really big focus on morale,” she said. “The senior members would host barbecues, game nights and movie nights. My favorite event was when we had a huge hiking event with the entire squadron in Virginia. We were able to do fun things like that, plus emergency services and orientation flights.”

Because of her military family’s frequent moves, Mollison had the opportunity to participate in programs at numerous locations. After the family moved to Delaware, she didn’t really want to be in CAP anymore. “I didn’t want to put the effort into joining a new squadron’s community,” Mollison said.

“But again, I had really great senior members who believed in me and invested their time in me. People, like Capt. Tuson [now Maj. Scott Tuson, former commander of the Delaware Wing’s Eagle Cadet Squadron], were always cheering me on.”

Eventually, Mollison moved again to Alaska, where she joined the Birchwood Composite Squadron, and then Japan, most recently serving in CAP’s Yakota Cadet Squadron at Yakota Air Base.

“The different experiences I’ve had all depended on the senior members,” she said. “The similarities between [Boys & Girls Clubs] and senior members is their dedication to youth development.

“The CAP members I’ve had the pleasure of knowing unwaveringly love cadets, and they love being there for the young people. There’s no other explanation for the hours of preparation and work they invest to continually build a greater program.”

As a cadet Mollison earned her solo pilot rating and attended five encampments in Alaska, Oregon and Japan. She also participated in the Cyber Defense Training Academy at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and Cadet Officer School at CAP National Headquarters at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

She’s a freshman Air Force ROTC student at American University in Washington, D.C., studying international relations and Arabic. She hopes to earn a U.S. Air Force pilot slot and eventually fly C-17s.


60+ From CAP Attending Organization's 1st Youth Development Conference


More than 60 Civil Air Patrol region and wing directors are attending the organization's first Youth Development Conference at Boys & Girls Clubs of America Headquarters in Atlanta today through Monday.

“Youth-serving programs thrive only when the adults are well-trained,” said Curt LaFond, CAP’s director of youth programs. “While CAP has lots of in-house training, it is not enough.

“To take adult training up a notch, we’ve asked some of the top experts in the youth development profession to enlighten our community’s top leaders.”

The Boys & Girls Clubs developed a collaborative partnership with CAP in 2017. By working together, officials believe, the two organizations can achieve broader goals and outcomes to develop the next generation of American youth to be successful, healthy and engaged citizens.

“This training aims to create opportunities for current CAP staff members and volunteers to continue to learn and develop ttrough evidence-informed program models, staff practices and organization systems and practices that lead to impact,” said Dawn Brunson, Boys & Girls Clubs senior director of Military Outreach.

Boys & Girls Clubs provides CAP access to member services, including organizational development, program and resource development, assistance with developing a comprehensive professional development strategy, and assistance with developing a comprehensive growth strategy using the clubs’ strategic growth model.

“We’re trying to equip our community’s top leaders with the latest evidence-based best practices,” LaFond said. “We’re asking people to learn what the experts recommend an imagine ways to incorporate that learning in our cadet program.”

While there’s a huge amount of information to be learned, LaFond Is confident the event will be a success.

“CAP is asking a lot of the adults who volunteer to serve cadets,” he said. “Their job is really hard. They have to make cadet life educational, but not school.

“Adult leaders must point cadets in the right direction, correct them, challenge them, allow lots of opportunity for youth voice and autonomy while keeping the program a safe place to fail and bounce back. This conference can help do that.”

Along with LaFond, other CAP leaders have been invited to speak at the conference, including Maj. Gen. Mark Smith, CAP's national commander/CEO.

Cadet Lt. Col. Isabella Mollison of the Alaska Wing's Birchwood Composite Squadron, the Boys & Girls Clubs' 2019 Overseas Military Youth of the Year, will deliver the conference's closing address.

A list of participants and speakers is available online.