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October 4, 2013

Wallace State hosting Youth Leadership Development Program

HANCEVILLE — Wallace State Community College is facilitating the expansion of Youth Leadership Development Program (YLDP). As one of its Higher Education Partners for the last several years, the college is the base for a program that this year includes students from Cullman city and county schools and at least one Morgan County school. Plans are to expand the program to more students in the college’s service area in the future.

Tad Parker, a Wallace State employee and an YLDP staff member, said the 2013-2014 program will reach almost 90 students. All of the Cullman county and city schools and Hartselle High School in Morgan County, were asked to select two juniors and six seniors to participate. They are looking not necessarily for the 4.0 students, but for students who have leadership potential and may have been overlooked for similar opportunities.

Cullman County Schools Superintendent Billy Coleman said the addition of the YLDP program for Cullman County students is a welcome addition to other leadership programs in the area.

“We have so many students who have leadership qualities and to give those students leadership opportunities is great,” Coleman said. “We desperately need great leadership in this country, our kids have fantastic qualities, and will be a generation that makes a great impact and needed change in our country.”

Cullman City Schools Superintendent Doreen Griffeth said teaching students leadership skills is an important part of preparing them for their future.

“It’s very import for our student to build those skills, because that’s really what the market is asking for,” Griffeth said. “Not just students who can pass a test but can collaborate, take a lead, have good character and know how to act in those different arenas.”

The Cullman/Blount program as it is called is one of three YLDP programs in Alabama.

The 2013-2014 program kicked off on Sept. 19, at Mt. Brook High School, with both students and parents from all three programs in attendance. The guest speaker was Coach Hermon Boone, who was portrayed by Denzel Washington in the movie “Remember the Titans.” Mark Heinrich, Chancellor of Alabama Postsecondary Education, and Birmingham Mayor William Bell also spoke at the event.

The Cullman area students gathered for their first meeting at Wallace State-Hanceville on Oct. 1. They will also meet at the college in December, February, March and April. WSCC President Vicki Hawsey Karolewics will spoke at the October meeting themed “What Makes a Leader.” She discussed leadership traits such as ethics, honesty, trustworthiness and authenticity and skills such as professional etiquette and introductions.

Other meetings throughout the year will be held in Homewood, at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and the graduation celebration at the University of Montevallo. The December meeting will feature YLDP founder Ralph Parrish, president and CEO of NAFCO. The January meeting at Sixteenth Street Baptist Church will feature former Alabama football player and Castille Foundation director Jeremiah Castille.

Hearing from such a wide variety of speakers will only benefit the students, Coleman said. Leaders, he said, can be developed by hearing from others and by listening to the views and thought of people who have been leaders.

Initiated in 2008, its purpose is to provide a leadership program for deserving high school juniors and seniors from area high schools. The nine-month program holds meetings from 4:30 to 7 p.m. once a month, where participants hear from speakers chosen on the basis of his or her accomplishments, stature and character.

In addition to the monthly meetings where they learn leadership traits through discussions and activities, the students will also participate in community service projects to learn the benefits and blessings of helping others.

Parker said the students choose from several different community service projects in Cullman and surrounding areas in which to participate. One Cullman project includes a beautification project at Heritage Park. Another project is the Lee Ott Power of Pink Walk in Decatur this month. They could also choose to work with projects in the other YLDP programs, Parker said.

Coleman said community service projects are important in helping to build future leaders.

“My personal opinion is that leadership is service, it is serving others,” he said. “I think we’ve kind of distorted what true leadership is and I think true leaders are servants.”

Griffeth said serving the community has become very important for students over the years. “I know that already has been a focus for Cullman City Schools,” she said. “We want our students to be involved in community service. It’s good to be able to help others and work for the common good.”

Students participating in the leadership program will be eligible to apply for thousands of dollars in scholarships provided by state colleges and universities, as well as cash scholarships from other supporters.

Students interested in learning more about joining the next YLDP program for the upcoming 2014-2015 calendar year should check with their school guidance counselors.

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