05/04/07 — 20 county students complete Junior Leadership program

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20 county students complete Junior Leadership program

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 4, 2007 1:45 PM

Junior Leadership Wayne County organizers wanted to keep the area's best and brightest close to home.

More than seven years later, 20 students have earned their certificates as part of the 2007 Junior Leadership class.

"A lot of the kids, our best and brightest, go off to college and never come back to Wayne County," said Sudie Davis, advisory council chair and a member of the adult Leadership class that organized the junior effort in 1999. "We want to really introduce them to the county, show them that there are job opportunities here."

From the start, she said, there was merit to the program, if not a prototype to follow.

So, a Teen Health Corps curriculum was adapted to fit the needs of the new program. It is the same format used today.

Each year, 20 high school juniors are selected to participate. Program days are held throughout the school year, each on a different theme. Topics cover history and education, health care, business and industry, government and law, and agribusiness.

The Chamber of Commerce and school system have supported the effort, providing funding and transportation, respectively. The idea of expanding the program has been bandied about by the Chamber, but that would require more workers, Mrs. Davis said.

"This year, we had 49 apply and selected 20 students," she said. To accept more students, "interested volunteers are what we would need."

It would be worth it, she noted. In the nine years since it started, Mrs. Davis estimated about 200 young people have gone through Junior Leadership.

"Every year we see young people come through the program to go on to great things," she said. "We have young people who had older siblings who came through our leadership program. I think that says that families encouraged the other one to do it, and that they were pleased with the program the first time around."

Charlotte Brow and Mark Johnson were also in the Class of 1999. They have worked in the Junior Leadership program over the years and watched it grow.

"It's just a positive thing, and it's something they can put on their resume and college applications," she said. "They'll learn about their county and maybe they'll come back.

"You really don't know how many different types of careers there are until you get introduced to some of these programs."

Put simply, Johnson said, the program "challenges the students to do things, go out and become educated, come back and become leaders in our county."

Brandon Hill, a student at Charles B. Aycock High School, spoke during this year's graduation ceremonies.

"We learned how an experienced doctor can take control of a single emergency room when a serious accident occurs ... when a base commander has to take control when his airmen are shipped out (making) sure their family is OK," he said. "We realize how important it is to have an education, to become successful in careers in and around Wayne County."

Calling the experience "simply amazing," Brandon said the only suggestion he would make to improve the program would be to add on another year, for a senior leadership program.

Dr. Thomas Smith, who retired from the Air Force in September and continues to work with inner city youths, was recruited to help with Junior Leadership this year.

"For me, working with this group was a vacation," he said. "We had fun."

This year's class, and their schools, included:

*Charles B. Aycock High: Courtney Barnes, Abigail Caplinger, Abbi Davis, Drake Gurley, Brandon Hill, Kristen Prosser and Lauren Vied

*Eastern Wayne High: Hallie Hulse, Wesley Johnson, Noelle Kelly, Ashley Smith, Courtney Wegman and Roderica Worrell

*Goldsboro High: LaChelle Jackson

*Rosewood High: Bryan Jones and Eric Jones

*Southern Wayne: Ashley Bunch

*Wayne Country Day School: Jeffrey Franklin and Erin Taylor

*Wayne Early/Middle College: Marquis Pullen