Chamber launches new youth leadership program
Eighteen high school students will soon be chosen to participate in a program designed to develop leadership skills and expose them to how their community operates.
Youth Leadership Natchez is a career and leadership development program aimed at developing a group of young leaders to eventually assume responsible leadership roles in the community.
The program is branching off Leadership Natchez, which is a year-long program operated under the umbrella of the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce geared at developing and retaining leadership among professionals in the community.
In Leadership Natchez, members attend monthly classes and each group has a community service project and a fundraising event.
The thought behind Youth Leadership Natchez was to mirror a similar program for an even younger generation of future leaders, Co-Lin Vice President Teresa Busby said.
“It’s all about being vested in the community and showing these young people what their community has to offer,” Busby said. “The more vested they are in the community, the more they realize what opportunities are here waiting for them.”
The program will be composed of six monthly, full-day sessions from October through April and includes an opening retreat at which students are introduced to each other and the program coordinators.
Once a month, the participating students will be excused from their school classes to participate in the program’s activities.
The activities range from tourism and history tours, such as a buggy ride around town and a tour of the Natchez National Cemetery, to tours of economic development industries such as Enersteel and Elevance.
Adams County Extension Service Director David Carter, who works with the Leadership Natchez program, said he jumped at the chance to get involved with the new program.
“I think it’s something tremendous because even with the adult program, some of them don’t always know what’s available in their backyard,” Carter said. “When you live somewhere, it’s easy to forget the things you have available right here in your hometown.”
Carter said the program will also include several tours and learning sessions with the Natchez Board of Aldermen and Adams County Board of Supervisors in hopes of familiarizing the students with how local government works.
“When you’re governed by the people, you need people to eventually step up and lead,” he said. “All these students might not run for election one day, but they’ll certainly help this community by knowing how everything works and seeing what it takes to operate our area.”
The program is open to 11th-grade students in public and private schools in Adams County.
Applicants must have a 2.5 grade point average for the previous school year to be considered.
Busby said bringing together students from all the schools in the area was something that was a must for the program.
“Our focus has always been to bring together the public, private and parochial schools because everyone really has great things going on,” she said. “These students will learn how to work together and learn at a young age some fabulous leadership skills that will carry over them in college or in the workplace.”
The program won’t be a walk in the park for the participants as the students must meet several expectations, such as attending all sessions and participating wholeheartedly, in order to graduate from the program.
Other program requirements will be up to the participants to establish, Chamber President Debbie Hudson said.
“Just like with Leadership Natchez, they will have to come up with some project that will benefit the community on their own,” Hudson said. “This program is geared to a younger level to show them the opportunities and needs of the community.
“This is our future workforce.”
Students interested in applying to the program can pick up an application at their respective schools. The deadline to turn in an application is 4:30 p.m. Sept. 13.
All applicants must submit at least one letter of recommendation from someone other than a relative or other than someone from their school. The program is free.