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Leaders of tomorrow learn skills today

Linda Smith, standing at right, and Jordan Burrell, events and programs coordinator with the Chamber of Commerce, standing in background, pass out information during the November 13, 2008, Youth Leadership Union meeting.

Thanks to a partnership between the Union County Public Schools and the Union County Chamber of Commerce, 19 high school students are getting first-hand lessons in being the leaders of tomorrow.   

Nineteen students from UCPS high schools were chosen to participate in Youth Leadership Union, which was formed this past August. “The goal of this is to build leadership skills, while learning about the wealth of opportunities and diversity here in Union County,” said Linda Smith, the UCPS Job Development Coordinator.

Students met November 13, 2008, the third gathering for the students, in a day-long event that focused on volunteer opportunities. “Learning about volunteering opportunities is one component of Youth Leadership Union, but it also incorporates economic development, job opportunities, and how to be a vital part of the community,” Smith said.

Students will establish a volunteer project as a group that will benefit Union County. “We’re learning about the community and the opportunities around us, how we can help to make this world a better place,” said Hannah Nystrom, 17, a senior at Weddington High School. “I’m impressed by the number of volunteer opportunities we actually have here in Union County. I didn’t know about Health Quest or Hospice.”

September’s session dealt with diversity – the physical diversity of the east and western sections of Union County; poverty versus wealth of county residents; the diversity of the 14 municipalities in Union County; the ethnic diversity; and the diversity in local business and industry.

Students visited with the Union County Arts Council and Downtown Monroe officials in Monroe in September. They traveled to Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail; Cane Creek Park; Brooklandwood, the home of the Queens Cup-Steeplechase; and the historic Pleasant Grove Campground. 

“I never realized how diverse our county is,” said Josh Arnold, 16, a junior at Marvin Ridge High School. “It gives us an opportunity to network with the leaders in our community, something that would have been difficult to do without this group.”

Volunteering, Arnold said, is a responsibility every citizen should share. “The community provides a lot of things for us, and there comes a time when you have to turn that around and see what you can do to help out the community.”

“I’m so pleased with these students,” Smith said. “They represent the richness of our youth here in Union County. These are the young adults I want to introduce to our local business and industry. I want them to know that this is the caliber of student we’re able to produce through partnerships with the Chamber, Union County Public Schools and the JobReady Partnership.”

Jordan Burrell, events and programs coordinator with the Chamber, had similar comments. “These students are so well-rounded. I’m very impressed,” she said. “This event teaches professionalism and helps these students learn self-confidence. It gives them opportunities and open doors for them.”

Students, who meet once every six weeks, will continue with the program until May of 2009, culminating with a group project. The next meeting will be in January when students get a first-hand look at the city and county government.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, Publications Coordinator
Posted: Nov 17, 2008 by Deb Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator

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