Groups of 15 students huddled silently around a grid of taped rectangles, earnestly gesturing and pointing to their teammate in the middle. An occasional 'beep' or 'buzz' came from the "Puzzle Master" sitting stoically at the other end, forcing the student to retrace their steps and exit the "Super Maze". The object? Get all of your teammates through the maze on a specific path that you only learn through trial and error. However, the real objectives for this and other intentionally-frustrating games played at this year's GEAR UP Student Leadership Event are teamwork, leadership, and communication.

Over 150 students and chaperones spent three days at Western Oregon University under the expert guidance of a team from Gear Up for Excellence and Seeds Training. Middle and high school students separated into two groups, covering similar topics including understanding learning styles, practicing goal setting, building trust and expressing gratitude.

On the "Gratitude Wall", one student wrote,

I'm grateful for my teachers. They motivate me to do my best. I look up to them very much.

At the end of the three days, the high school students faced the ultimate challenge: confronting their fears and the barriers to their success by breaking boards with their hands or feet. This powerful exercise left the students energized and inspired to start the school year reaching for their dreams and planning for their future.

For more information and photos visit our Facebook page and the Gear Up for Excellence web journal.