Leaders in the Making

Published 2:39 pm Friday, January 21, 2011

YOUTH LEADERSHIP STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBERS are, from the left, front, Kyle Harris, Christina Greene, Sarah Frankling, Tad Young and Josh Smith; middle row, Gabby Howard, Abbey Smith, Sarah Bush, Michael Jones, Jennifer Voyles and Anne Reynolds; back row, Adam Anderaon, Sam Slaughter, Taylor McDonald and Stephen Dunn.

During the weekend of Jan. 8, the Bainbridge-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce held its annual youth leadership retreat at Jones-Wheat Elementary School and the Bainbridge YMCA.

The Decatur County Youth Leadership Program is designed to develop leadership skills, offer interaction opportunities in our county, and increase awareness of community issues, needs and resources.

Students chosen to partake in the various events and activities that the Leadership Program offers were appointed by their teachers and nominated by a committee of leadership board members.

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The following students were selected for the Leadership Class of 2011: Alyssa Bardwell, Diamond Bouie, Bailey Bristow, Megan Brock, Kelly Brooks, Bernard Burke Jr., Lauren Carraway, Meredith Conder, McKenzie Conder, Savannah Cook, Will Dozier, Dustin Eakin, Clint Edmunds, Marc Fleetwood, Shelby Gordon, Natasha Green, Cassandra Henry, Devin Hubbard, Jackson Jones, Justin Maxwell, Justin Maxwell, Bryceson McQuaid, Stephanie Mills, Kristen Monson, Caroline New, Blair Nix, Evan Rentz, Morgan Rogers, Austin Rowe, Joedaycya Sanders, Noah Thorn, Ashley Waddell, Caylin Walsingham and Emily Ward.

These students were selected from numerous sophomores and juniors attending Bainbridge High School and Grace Christian Academy, as well as home-schooled students in Decatur County.

The Leadership Class of 2011, in addition to the retreat, will have classes at various locations in Bainbridge on Monday evenings from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. They began at the home of Marlene Free on Jan. 10, and will conclude March 14. Students receive lessons regarding the community in which they live, how to communicate effectively, how to become a strong public speaker, business etiquette, entrepreneurship, manners, and the importance of setting goals and making wise decisions.

Outstanding members of our community are scheduled to voluntarily speak at these classes and are greatly appreciated for their time and effort devoted to encouraging all participants to become better leaders. Among these members of the community are June Johnson and Marlene Free, who taught public speaking and business etiquette at the first class of the year.

Ronnie Burke and Charlotte Howard will cover Family Connections and community issues. Suzy Bonifay will talk to the students about team building and making group decisions. Glennie Bench will stress the importance of setting goals and making decisions. Wynton Hall will discuss effective communication. Entrepreneur Jim Gisondi, and the Sheriff and his staff will demonstrate appropriate technology usage and inform the students about the crime and justice system.

As a participant in the Decatur County Youth Leadership Class of 2010, I was chosen to be a part of the steering committee this year and have thoroughly enjoyed planning and coordinating events and activities for the class of 2011. As a member of the steering committee, it is my responsibility to ensure that things are running smoothly and without delay, assisting in any way that I can. Though we are supposed to be helpful in all ways possible, steering committee members were not allowed to participate in games or to aid the students in any way while they strategized and worked together at the retreat. It was difficult to refrain from giving the students my advice or input, but by doing so, I was able to see true teamwork and cooperation at its finest. The Leadership Class of 2011 consists of a mixture of students—some more outspoken than others, some more reserved—but the students really seemed to have found a common ground and meshed well together.

President of the Chamber of Commerce Diane Strickland, chairman of the steering committee Charlotte Howard, and Greg McDonald are largely responsible for the success of the leadership program. Strickland is new to the program, and we have been very fortunate to have her on board. She is always extremely friendly and positive, and I must include patient as well, being that dealing with a group of more than 30 high school students could often be awfully unnerving.

Howard is demanding of respect, with her five-second countdowns to silence and little life lectures. She treats every child as her own, and I know that she is genuine in all that she does. I mean, what other woman would have prayer for the entire group before we drive the maybe half a mile distance between Jones-Wheat and the YMCA? That’s just Ms. Charlotte; always praying and always sincere.

And I can’t forget Mr. McDonald. I can say I am honestly still sore from the game of partner tag we played at the retreat, and I think all the students can say that they are experts at the spider web by now. He makes the retreat so enjoyable, while making it his mission to see that all the students are actively engaged and strengthening their leadership potential.

I would personally like to express my appreciation to all of the adults involved in promoting the Decatur County Youth Leadership program and for making all of this possible. Also, thank you to my fellow steering committee members for being, well, awesome. Everyone involved has done an outstanding job of organizing the retreat and class schedule for this year, and I know that, like every other year, this is going to be a great one.

To the Leadership Class of 2011, make the most of this incredible opportunity. It will benefit you not only in your present lives, but for years to come. Good luck.