Wednesday was the second day of the two-day "Impact" leadership academy held for some of Cartersville's rising sophomores, juniors and seniors. The event is a first for Cartersville City Schools and had been funded by a private donor wishing to see the creation of such an event. Thirty students applied to take part in the first-ever Impact and were all accepted into it.
"Impact is where we have the chance as the adults to try to impact these kids' lives, so that they can go back in Cartersville High school and infiltrate the different pods and groups of friends that they have to impact their friends, so we can change Cartersville High School and make it a better place," said Drew Startup, a Cartersville High teacher and one of the academy's organizers. "It's a great place already, we have high expectations for our students there, but we want to raise the bar a little bit and we want more kids to stand out instead of just blend in and go with the flow."
The academy featured several guest speakers and breakout sessions dealing with problem solving, leader qualities, setting goals and other topics. The agenda students and adult volunteers worked through spanned all day Tuesday and the first half of Wednesday, culminating with a luncheon at Tabernacle Baptist Church. Most of the two-day event was held at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Cartersville.
For junior Tori Morris, one of the biggest things she learned was the importance of a good attitude, which she said she hopes to embody on her first day back to classes in August.
"You can change a lot of lives just by how you present yourself and how you act when no one's watching. It's your character that matters," Morris said. "You just have to always be positive and always just have a smile on your face, because you never know who is watching you -- somebody is always watching you. I'm just going to have a big smile on my face and greet everybody that I can."
Another lesson Morris took with her came from guest speaker Craig McClure, youth pastor at Grace Baptist Church.
"He was like, 'You can set your goals, but if you don't put your whole heart in it, and you just do it, it's never going to mean as much,'" Morris said. "When you set goals, you've got to try, and you've got to want it. My goal is to just grow up, go to college, major in communications, be a talk show host. I've got to work at that -- you just can't say 'I want to be a talk show host,' and not try."
In addition to local speakers such as McClure, participants also heard from Shaun King, former Tulane and NFL quarterback, with his longest pro stint being with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"The best part was I think the guest speakers. They really opened up to us and told us their stories," said junior Adrienne Green, adding that she enjoyed King's talk the most. "He talked about how he played football and came from a small town and his team wasn't really that good, but he didn't let failing, losing games, stop him.
"I play sports, too, and [his talk] told me not to quit."
Sophomore Macall Lewis said he enjoyed meeting new people during the two-day happening. He also said that the event's activities helped him work on some of the personal challenges that may prevent him from become an effective leader. One such incident came during a more fun part of the days' schedule -- bowling and laser tag at Stars and Strikes Entertainment Center in Dallas.
"I'm very competitive, and doing bad at bowling, if I'm around people I know, I get upset and mad and have a bad attitude. But since I was around new people, it kind of helped me control myself and not get quite as mad and stay in a good mood," Lewis said, adding that he felt his experience also helped him become somewhat less impatient.
Lewis said he hopes to take his experience from the past two days when he attempts to make an impact in his second year of high school.
"Last year, I was kind of insecure, but this year, I think it will be a lot better, not only because I know more people going into this, but this experience has helped me become a better person, and I can kind of filter out most of the bad stuff, and this is going to help me filter out even more," he said.
"I hope that these kids will take something that they learned -- we asked them to develop a personal mission statement -- and for them to make a change in Cartersville High, impact their peers," Startup said. "They've got to be willing to cut some of the garbage out and they've got to make sure they're surrounding themselves with good people who want to do right things. But most of all, have those goals set, and when they go back, they know they have people that are supporting them and that are going to do the right thing right along with them."