DESPITE prevailing criticism of young people's apathy towards community affairs, a veteran social worker and current Hong Kong Polytechnic lecturer says young people today have more initiative and are actively engaged in a variety of social activities compared to their peers 15 years ago. Speaking after the opening ceremony of the Joint School Leadership Training Camp, which also marked the project's 15th year, veteran camp lecturer Charles Yu Tak-shun said: ''Young people today have more initiative and are more willing to take on new challenges. They no longer want to be a listener and an onlooker, but instead want to roll up their sleeves and try their hands at new things.'' The flexible and interesting teaching format of the training camp was vital in attaining balanced education which encouraged a whole-person development, said Mr Yu, who is a lecturer in the Department of Applied Social Studies at Hong Kong Polytechnic. Monique Chan Ka-wai, a social worker and camp lecturer, agreed: ''The achievement need and independence need of adolescents can be better met through camps of this sort.'' Co-organised by St Louis School and St Paul's Secondary School, the camp aims to introduce theories of leadership, to instil inter-personal skills and to enhance the sense of self-awareness among participants. Lectures, group discussions, sharing and games were adopted for achieving the stated goals. For the organising committee, the challenge of leadership training began even before the camp had actually started. Chairman Andrew Lam Ting-hang, 18, of St Louis School admitted the preparation period had enabled him to learn some of the necessary qualities as a leader. ''It is not just learning how to hold a meeting, but dealing with committee members with different and unique characters individually and to maintain a harmonious working atmosphere,'' Andrew said. Committee head Alice Lee Yu-ming of St Paul's Secondary School said: ''How to co-operate with people and to overcome difficulty together is essential for leaders.'' Four-time participant Simon Lee Kwan-lap of St Louis School revealed the reason for his joining the camp. ''Skills I learned in the camp had enhanced my communication ability and I have become more confident when meeting new friends.'' The spirit of give-and-take also plays a role in his decision. ''Three years ago, I was learning from my seniors. Now I just want to contribute my experience and effort to my juniors,'' said Simon, who had become a group leader this year. The four-day camp saw the attendance of 120 participants, 60 Form Three to Form Six students from St Louis School and 60 Form Four to Form Six students from St Paul's Secondary School.