Youth Leadership marks semester's end
by Matt Shinall
Dec 15, 2010 | 1871 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thirty-five students from across the county have spent a portion of their time during this first half of the academic calendar pursuing personal development through the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce Youth Leadership program.

Since its inception in the early '90s, Youth Leadership has taught leadership skills and community involvement through practical workshops, guest speakers and facility tours. High school sophomores and juniors from Bartow apply each spring for the program lasting from September to April.

"I think Youth Leadership is great because the students that really stand out in their own high schools can come together. They're not representing their particular school, they're representing Bartow County. And so when you have the caliber of students that come out and participate in our leadership program, you're having all these great minds unite at one time," said Leslie McMillan, Chamber community partners director.

The program began with a retreat at the Cherokee Retreat Center in White where students participated in team building and ice breaking activities as they got to know members of the group. McMillan emphasized how students have to overcome a fatal flaw often found in leaders both young and old alike -- working with other leaders.

"It was really awesome to see them come together and brainstorm out of all the different high schools located here in Bartow County of the different issues that are going on in the schools and then provide a solution," McMillan said. "They leave the leadership program united, they know different people, they know how to work as a team with different personalities. They're all leaders from their schools coming together, but when you're on a team not everyone can be a leader, so I think they can identify what they're strengths and weaknesses are, how to grow or become more successful at their weaker points, learning from other leaders their age how they can do things better and making improvements within themselves."

Youth Leadership has focused on breaking down barriers between pre-existing groups, including competition and rivalry among schools. Students represent Adairsville, Cartersville, Cass, Darlington, Excel and Woodland but all share common characteristics, goals and aspirations.

Chaz Wilson, a Cass High sophomore, was recommended for the program by a teacher and has thus far enjoyed the experiences, meeting new people and lessons learned.

"It's been pretty great, the people in there are great. I'm making friends and learning to be a good leader. ... We all have a lot in common just with school and having huge aspirations in life," Wilson said. "I wanted to learn about the community and get ahead and have some leadership skills to go along with it."

Students have already participated in Professional Etiquette Day, Government Day and Finance Day. Activities in these features included mock interviews and ballroom dancing in addition to presentations from Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini and Congressional Field Representative Travis Loudermilk. Local business leaders led instruction on budgeting, money management, dining etiquette and dressing for success.

In November, students presented projects analyzing their biggest concern in high schools today and suggested possible solutions to these problems. The audience was comprised of principals, counselors, mentors, board members and community leaders.

Leadership skills found and developed in these activities are aimed at encouraging growth, confidence and future success. Wilson personally recommends the program to any up and coming sophomore or junior.

"I would highly recommend doing it. It's just a good way to learn about the community and stuff that we don't see every day and things we wouldn't know if it wasn't for this program," Wilson said, adding his thoughts on the importance of leadership development in general. "It gets you ahead in life, number one. If you have a job to do or something you have to do or if you have to get a task done then it's just going to give you the tools you need to get it done and get it done properly."

After a break in the schedule for holidays, Youth Leadership participants will return in January for Business and Industry Day highlighted by a tour of Georgia Power's Plant Bowen. In February, students will visit Berry College for Education Day followed by Health and Wellness Day in March where groups will tour The Hope Center and Cartersville Medical Center. Rounding out the year, Youth Leadership will tour the Bartow County Jail for Law and Order Day before preparing for graduation.

For more information contact a high school guidance office or the Chamber at 770-382-1466, or

Students participating in this year's Youth Leadership are:

Adairsville High School

* Brandon Brugh

* Jordan Rakestraw

* Kayla Broughton

* Allie Summerfield

Cartersville High School

* Stephanie Hernandez

* Yanelly Martinez

* Melissa Bartlett

* Katie Knight

* Anna Smith

* Bianca Anderson

* Mallory Jones

* Ryan Brideau

* Kara Richardson

* Conner Wood

* Daniel Nally

* Lauren Matthews

* Mia Robinson

* Cody Scoggins

Cass High School

* Hazel Quick

* Jeremy Coone

* Chaz Wilson

* Veronica Cuevas

* Skyler Mays

* Ivanna Betancourt

* Hannah Dunlap

Darlington School

* Caroline Walker

Excel Christian Academy

* Courtney Fox

* Hayes Vaughan

* Zachary Roberts

* Catherine Harris

* Mason Rudder

* Benjamin Perkins

Woodland High School

* Weston Melton

* Sarah Beth Jenkins

* Ryan Ruggiero