Our Future Leaders – by Tony Thomas

Participants of Camp ROAD DAWGS with PWC Mounted Unit

The future leaders of tomorrow are learning today. For many teenagers, summer means spending their mornings sleeping in and staying up late at night. However, for a select group of teens in Manassas Park, that is not the case. This summer has been all about learning how to tap into their leadership potential. Learning how to become a positive leader requires dedication and sacrifice. This meant waking up at 6:00am as they prepared for the Parks and Recreation van to pick them up from their house.  This summer, the Manassas Park Community Center featured several different in-house camps and collaborated with local agencies to host other camps. All camps had the same goal – to instill leadership in our youth and surround them with positive role models. Some of the campers missed a few trips to the mall, movies, and video games to participate in summer camps, but they can each tell you how much it was worth it. Here are the ways in which some of the teens of Manassas Park spent their summer:


From time to time, in the news, you may hear about an individual’s negative interaction with the police. However, we do not hear enough about the positive interactions that the police have in our communities. Camp ROAD DAWGS is one of those experiences. Standing for Don’t Associate with Gangs (D.A.W.G.S), the premise behind this camp is to pair local Manassas Park law enforcement with a group of students from Manassas Park Middle School for a week of community policing and showing the teens’ difference aspects of law enforcement, while stressing the importance of good decision-making skills.

Fostering positive relationships between teens of Manassas Park and law enforcement is paramount in this camp. This was an eventful camp, as the teens got the opportunity to work with and see K9 Police Officers, Prince William County Mounted Police Patrol, Prince William County Forensics Unit, Prince William County General District Count, Washington D.C. Metropolitan Harbor Patrol Unit, and the Prince William County Police Academy.

Participants of Camp ROAD DAWGS with PWC Mounted Unit

Leadership Prince William Summer Youth Academy

Excerpt taken from Leadership Prince William’s website: “During each session of this 10-day program, students are introduced to community issues and leaders through group discussions, field trips, and hands-on activities. Participants have an opportunity to enhance their team building, communication, and leadership skills. Leadership Prince William selects student leaders from a diverse cross section of Prince William County, Manassas City, and Manassas Park residents–much like the adult program. Campers will also receive their Emergenetics personality profile, discovering how it impacts their leadership style and how to work with others who may see the world differently.”

Part of the leadership journey for these teens included putting together a charity event for two local nonprofits. The method to raise money was a lemonade stand. One group of teens raised $875.90 for Serve our Willing Warriors and the other group raised $825.37 for the Freedom Museum. The end of the two-week camp concluded with a graduation ceremony.

Two of our campers were afforded this opportunity because of the generosity of IMPACTO YOUTH.

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Camp 4-ALARM

In the same way that Road DAWGS pairs youth with law enforcement, Camp 4-Alarm pairs teens with members of the Manassas Park Fire Department. Throughout their week together, teens learned about the skills it takes to have a career in fire rescue. Each morning started off with personal training with the fire fighters, followed by experiencing the exact routines that fire rescue goes through each day. The camp ended with the teens getting the opportunity to put out a controlled simulated fire at Signal Hill.

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Community Center Camps

All summer long, the Manassas Park Community Center was host to a variety of camps. Teens from across the City and County participated, learned new skills, and built new friendships. Camp themes included favorites such as View from the Top, which took campers on hiking trips along local trail ways and paths, and Helping Hands, which is all about volunteering in the community. New this year was the Business and Entrepreneur Camp. This camp taught teens about business plans, investing, and some of the traits that it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. The week ended with a presentation based on the hit TV show Shark Tank. Teens had to present their sales pitch to three investors from the Community Center to see which idea would be funded.

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Putting together these camps is a true collaborative effort, and it would not be possible without the tremendous effort and assistance of the staff from the Community Center, Police, Fire Department, and all of the businesses and organizations that have donated time and resources for camps.

This summer has proven that the future starts today.

Tony Thomas is the Recreation Services Supervisor for the City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation. He can be reached at 703-335-8872 or via email at t.thomas@manassasparkva.gov.

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