Bright future: Youth Leadership Natchez teaches teamwork

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, October 22, 2014

NATCHEZ — Kailey Hutchins began understanding the meaning of teamwork last week as she and a group of fellow high school students attempted to tie a knot with a long piece of rope.

“You really have to communicate what you’re doing with everyone else to make sure you all accomplish the same goal,” the Trinity Episcopal Day School junior said. “That’s one of the main things I learned (Tuesday) about leadership.”

The team-building exercise was part of the first day of Youth Leadership Natchez, a career and leadership development program aimed at developing a group of young leaders to eventually assume leadership roles in the community.

Email newsletter signup

The exercise required members of three teams to each hold a portion of the rope and not let go as they attempted to maneuver and coordinate themselves to create a knot.

The program is in its second year of existence and expanded to a total of 20 Adams County students this year. Eleventh-grade students from public, private and parochial schools were selected to participate in the seven-month program.

The program is a spin-off of Leadership Natchez, which is a yearlong program operated under the umbrella of the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce. Leadership Natchez aims to develop and retain professional leadership in the community.

Adams County Extension Service Director David Carter, who works with the Youth Leadership Natchez program, led the high-school students through various activities Tuesday ranging from designing group T-shirts to discussing what being a leader in the community entails.

“We talked about what exactly does it take to be a leader and what sorts of things you can do to get there,” Carter said. “We talked a lot about how team work, communication and those sorts of things are vital to all of that.”

The students also participated in a variety of team-building exercises, including one that had groups of students working to pull a bed sheet apart at the same time to launch a ball into the air. A group on the other side also had to work together to catch the ball in their sheet without letting the ball hit the ground.

Adams County Christian School’s Brooke Daniels said the activity was what she enjoyed most about the leadership retreat.

“It really taught us that we needed to work together in order to accomplish the same goal,” Daniels said. “If we all didn’t work together, we couldn’t get the ball in the air.”

Cathedral School’s Dee Fleming said he was able to use the skills he’s learned playing organized team sports to help his group accomplish the team-building exercises.

“It’s all very similar because on a team a single person is not important, so you all have to work together to get things accomplished,” Fleming said. “I learned a lot of new and different leadership strategies that were really beneficial.”

The program is comprised of seven monthly, full-day sessions from October through April.

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 carriage ride around town and a tour of the Natchez Visitors’ Center, to tours of economic development industries such as Great River Industries and Elevance.

Natchez High School’s Regginald Good said he wanted to be a part of Youth Leadership Natchez to learn more about how he can one day become a leader in his community.

“I want to learn new and different leadership skills that will help me better guide my peers,” Good said. “All of these things will hopefully help me do that.”

Another change to this year’s program included inviting students who participate in last year’s program to help lead the new group of students.

Carter said the last thing last year’s group of students did was help provide feedback on what they enjoyed the most from the experience.

“Last year’s class really helped design this year’s class with their ideas, but we also have some of the actual students from last year’s class who are going to be leading a lot of the activities and exercises,” Carter said. “It gives those students a good, real-world experience of being leaders to the new group of students this year.”