Youth Leadership program wraps up year, prepares for graduation

Published 12:01 am Saturday, May 2, 2015

NW0503 Youth Leadership Nashville

From team building and high flying adventure at Doe River Gorge to mock interviews with area professionals, this year’s Carter County Youth Leadership program included many opportunities for the delegates to grow as young leaders, get involved in their communities, and prepare for college and their future careers.

This year, 26 students from all five high schools in Carter County participated in the Youth Leadership program, provided through a partnership with the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce and Milligan College, director Chandrea Shell said.

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The student delegates for the Leadership Class were selected through an application and interview process. Shell said the selection committee takes student recommendations from high school administrators and counselors. The previous year’s class is also asked for their recommendations for candidates for the following year.

“I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the caliber of students we get through the program,” Shell said. “This year’s group was top notch and a real pleasure to work with. We have a lot of talented young people in Carter County that are already doing so many special things in their communities.”

The group meets one day each month from August to May and participates in hands-on leadership development activities. Their classes cover topics like local government, economic development, history and heritage, health care, communication, leadership styles, tourism, agriculture, financial preparedness and state government.

Through the year, the students visited different areas in the county. They started their year with a trip to Doe River Gorge in September for team building activities. In October, they visited Snap-on Tools and Nidiffer Farm to gain a better understanding of the role of manufacturing and agriculture in the community, as well as the current state of our local economy, challenges and areas of projected growth.

“I never knew how amazing this small town really was,” said Elizabethton High School student Emily Kiser. “For example, I’ve driven past Snap-On Tools numerous times but never thought about their global impact and just how successful they were. I am thankful to have seen our community basically under a microscope.”

In November, the youth leaders got a look at local government during a visit to the Carter County jail, City Hall and the Carter County Courthouse. The students held a mock City Council meeting and an election. In December, the youth leadership class studied history, finance and tourism with a trip to the Chamber of Commerce and Citizens Bank. They also participated in the annual Christmas parade.

In January, they visited Sycamore Shoals Hospital for a look at local health care careers and the Carter County Board of Education to learn about education opportunities.

The group also traveled to Nashville in March to meet with legislators and representatives.

February’s session was rescheduled to April due to snow. The students participated in a career summit and visited the Elizabethton campus of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology, developed their resumes and took career aptitude tests.

For the scheduled April session, the students went through leadership development at Milligan College and prepared for the Youth Leadership graduation.

“I never really noticed what all went into our small community until we met with people who make extreme differences,” said Hanah Brumitt, Hampton High School. “I have learned so much about myself as a leader and what I can do to prepare myself for the future.”

In addition to the monthly sessions, students also read a book related to leadership and engaged in online conversation on a variety of leadership topics.

“Youth Leadership has helped me find my voice and understand what it means to be a leader,” said EHS student Ellie Decker. “I now have a greater understanding of myself and others, as well as how the community is interconnected. All parts are necessary.”

Leadership participants were also challenged with their small group projects to identify a way to positively impact the community, Shell said. These student-led projects included volunteering at a nursing home, visiting with veterans, tutoring in an after-school program, and providing backpacks with food for children in need.

“The group project taught me a lot about being grateful,” said Andy Johnson, EHS junior and Youth Leadership class president. “Our group chose to volunteer at a local nursing home. It made me realize how blessed I am to have health and strength, but I also realized that doing something as simple as helping someone play bingo can add value.”

The group is now preparing for their commencement ceremony that will be held on Monday, May 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Gregory Center at Milligan College.

Student delegates will present their group projects and share how they chose to impact their communities. They also will provide an overview of the program and share what they learned about themselves and their communities. The keynote speaker will be Lucas Hitechew, a former youth leadership delegate and Roan Scholar.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2016 Youth Leadership class. Applications are due by May 22 and can be found at or through a high school guidance counselor.

Members of the 2014-2015 Youth Leadership Class are Lakin Ashley, Emrie Boone, Josie Carnett, Desirae Clark and Payton Johnson from Cloudland High School; Maggie Booher, Shy Bowers, Ellie Decker, Catie Hill, Andy Johnson, Emily Kiser, Danielle Melton, Melenda Perry, Bo Pless, Weston Taylor, Sydney Waugh, Andrew Wetzel and Shelby Whitehead from Elizabethton High School; Hanah Brumit, Jake Lyons and Jared Wiltshire from Hampton High School; Ashley Babb, Sadie Buchanan and Hannah Smith from Happy Valley High School and Katie Norris and Kaytlyn Cox from Unaka High School.