Future leaders graduate from leadership program

Published 1:17 am Monday, April 24, 2006

By By Janet Little Cooper
Seventeen local high school juniors graduated from the Youth Leadership Atmore program Thursday night held at Trinity Episcopal Church.
The students have been involved in the program since September participating in a monthly all day meeting each month.
"Their first meeting was an overnight retreat at Camp Beckwith on Weeks Bay," YLA Steering Committee member, Nick Smith said. "They got to know each other for the first time, identifying themselves as being a group. They participated in so many activities that weekend that were team oriented causing them to bond."
The opening retreat was just the beginning for the group of students chosen to represent the youth leadership program. The group attended a session devoted to history giving an overview of Atmore's past and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. The day was spent meeting with city leaders and examining businesses in Atmore past and present.
Business and Industry was another focus for the young leaders, touring companies in Atmore such as Masland, Alto, Swift Lumber, Atmore Industries, United Bank and Trinsic.
"We have a session devoted to the Government," Smith said. "On Government Day, we took the students to Montgomery where we had meetings with the Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and Treasurer. Many of these students have never had any experience with how the government works and through this trip they can see first hand how the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government work."
For Education Day the group traveled to the University of Mobile where they met with the president and other University administrators as well as touring the campus and visiting several academic classes.
"It is our hope that we would develop and understanding in their minds on several different levels through their involvement in each session," Smith said. "We hope to not only develop an interest in these students but to also provide them with the tools they need to guide fellow students. They are examples of the type people who will be in Alabama's leadership 20 years from now."
Three students of the leadership program spoke to their fellow graduates, family and friends at the graduation ceremony held in their honor Thursday night. They each spoke of their appreciation for the program and the valuable lessons they learned.
"I truly believe that I am better prepared to go out in the world and accomplish anything after participating in YLA," Escambia County High School student Kellie McGhee said. "We all have a better knowledge of our community now."
ECHS junior Brandon Marshall was grateful for his experience in YLA also.
"You don't always have to be a great leader, but a great follower as well," Marshall said. "YLA has helped mold me into the leader that I hope to be someday."
Melissa Moore, who represents Homeschooled Kids and Company, spoke to the crowd about the many things she gained as a result of YLA.
"I have a better understanding of team work and leadership now," Moore said. "I have learned several valuable leadership traits that I will carry for the rest of my life."
The graduates were presented with a certificate of completion and a glass plaque inscribed with their name and year of YLA completion by Nick Smith and Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce director, Emilie Mims.
The featured speaker for the YLA graduation was Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. Chancellor of Troy University.
"I am not satisfied that our greatest threat lies outside of this country," Hawkins said. "I am more concerned about the drug abuse, domestic violence and people who are not willing to reach their full potential within our country. We need great leaders. Leadership is about vision, communication and friendship-something that you all have learned in this program. Where do you see yourself going in 10 years? If you set goals you can get there."
Hawkins used the word – LEAD – to make four points in regards to leadership. He pointed out that leaders have characteristics of loyalty, enthusiasm, attitude and determination.
"You offer the hope that what we have in this country will remain great," Hawkins said in his closing remarks to the YLA graduates.
Hawkins has served as Chancellor of Troy University for 17 years.
YLA graduates were given a challenge by Emilie Mims to participate in the adult Leadership Atmore's service project, Atmore's Picking up anti-litter campaign.
"What we have found in regards to economic development and growth in our community is that litter is hurting us all," Mims said. "The hurricanes have made litter a bigger problem for everyone. We are kicking off the campaign Saturday, April 29 at City Hall and would like for you all to come be a part of a great day of cleaning up Atmore."
YLA was organized 15 years ago a project of the adult Leadership Atmore program. High school juniors from all area high schools become members through an application and interview process.
The organization operates under the leadership of a steering committee that consists of members, Nick Smith, Cathy Lowery, Jane Woods, Mandy Murphy, Shelley Williams, Chad Green and Emilie Mims.
Applications will made available for qualified students in August at the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce.

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