07/12/10 — Junior leaders program chair resigning

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Junior leaders program chair resigning

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 12, 2010 1:46 PM

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Troy Herring

Sudie Davis, left, director of Communities in Schools and for the past 10 years director of Junior Leadership Wayne County, talks with Steve Hicks, executive director of Wayne County Chamber of Commerce, about pending changes in the program this fall. Mrs. Davis has announced she will turn over the reins for Junior Leadership, a program started by the Class of 1999 Leadership Wayne County and now under the guidance of the chamber.

After 10 years of directing Junior Leadership Wayne County, Sudie Davis is ready to share the wealth.

"I have asked that they find somebody else to chair it," she said last week. "I think I have given a lot, but reaped a lot of benefits from it, too. ... I just see it as a time for others to step forward.

"I want other people in the community to have the experiences I have had."

The role has been both exciting and rewarding, she said. It's been fun to witness young people grow and mature, and to be able to say she "knew them when."

The director of Communities in Schools also oversees the Teen Court program. Working with so many "at-risk" youths, the Junior Leadership program provided a good balance, she said.

But now is the right time to turn over the reins, Mrs. Davis said.

She was a member of the 1999 Leadership Wayne County class that started the program, affording high school juniors the chance to learn more about their hometown and participate in community service opportunities.

"We all did our share that year to make it happen," Mrs. Davis recalled. "I wound up chairing for the next 10 years."

The emphasis was to introduce youth to Wayne County and instill among the best and brightest the desire to build a future here.

"We wanted them to know that there were a myriad of job opportunities right here," she said. "Through the exposure of taking them out for the five program days, they were able to see many professions represented."

Initially the program featured five program days -- history and education, business and industry, government and law, health care and agribusiness. A sixth, Seymour Johnson Day, was added last year, giving it the same representation as Leadership Wayne County.

Mrs. Davis said the junior version featured three components -- introduction to the community, building leadership skills and service. Participants are required to perform 10 hours of service between October and May.

The program has thrived since it started out with 12 young people and a borrowed van. The second year it expanded to 14 members and was able to add even more slots the following year, when Wayne County Public Schools became a partner and provided transportation.

"That enabled us to increase the number to 20," she said. "We have stayed consistent with 20 since then. There are those who would love to increase it to 40 and have two sets of young people. It's a matter of finding resources and volunteers to make that happen."

Whoever steps forward to oversee the program will have much of the work already in place, Mrs. Davis said.

"I really think since the chamber of commerce has a great deal of involvement now, that this person would have good support, where I had to do a lot of the organizational things, the clerical things, everything for a long time," she said. "When our class started out, we just had to come up with all the funding the first couple of years.

"I think now we're very fortunate because the chamber through the Spelling Bee does provide funding. What we have requested the last several years is $1,100 to cover incidentals and graduation. But for the most part, most of it is donated."

How would she describe the job if it was placed in a classified ad?

"I think it's somebody who's interested in working with young people, has some organizational skills, is not intimidated in having to ask for opportunities for the young people and will appreciate the personal benefits as much as I have," she said.

She admits her departure will be bittersweet, as she has enjoyed watching fledgling leaders start to chart their path in life. She will even consider staying on, if only to transition the new director.

"Ed Wilson (chairman of the Wayne Education Network) asked me if the person that they found to take this wanted me to co-chair, would I?" she said. "I said yes, just to be there to support.

"I probably won't leave entirely. I would love to still help with orientation, that's such a fun day. Watching them come in as seven or eight little groups from their schools and become one group that day, to see that bond is very rewarding. It helps you to know that they're going to do fine as a group throughout the year."

The committee meets again in August, with hopes of having candidates in place for consideration

Applications for students are typically sent out to schools within the first couple weeks of classes, and home-schooled youth can contact the chamber of commerce to obtain one.

But if anyone wants to get a firsthand view of the county's future, consider helping with the Junior Leadership program, Mrs. Davis said.

"We are seeing more and more of these young people back in the community -- we have several teachers in Wayne County schools, several nurses, an attorney," she said. "That's rewarding when you see them back in the community giving back."