Mentoring program is striving to build strong local leaders –
Story and photo by Patricia Beech –
A graduation ceremony for the 2016 Leadership Adams Youth Academy was held on Friday, June 10 at the Adams County government building in West Union. The graduation concluded a five-day program aimed at helping students develop leadership skills through John Maxwell’s YouthMax Program. Throughout the week students had the opportunity to make networking connections and explore career opportunities, all within Adams County. Class members were presented completion certificates and commendations from the Adams County Commissioners.
“This is a fantastic group of young people,” said Commissioner Stephen Caraway. “I think Adams County is in good hands with them.”
Leaving Adams County in their hands is precisely what the members of Leadership Adams hope to do.
“We want to stop the “brain-drain” from our county by exposing our students to the good things Adams County has to offer – the business and entrepreneurial possibilities,” said Youth Academy facilitator, Michael Parks. “Many of them believe they have to leave to find good jobs. We try to give them alternatives.”
To achieve that end, in 2015 the Leadership Adams Board of Trustees created the program targeting high school juniors before the beginning of their senior year. Two students from each county high school (North Adams, Peebles, West Union, Manchester, Adams County Christian, and the Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center) are selected by their principals and guidance counselors to participate in the program.
The Youth Academy 2016 students are Sarah McFarland and Camryn Gordley – Peebles High School; Jansen Kramer and Shannon Runyan – West Union High School; Ryan Dryden – Manchester High School; Caitlin Young, Austin Parks, and George Hesler – North Adams High School; Taylor Combess and Josie McDowell – Career and Technical Center.
Additionally, participating students are eligible for an Academy scholarship based on their attendance and participation in the summer program, and an essay they’re required to write.
Under the guidance of facilitators Michael Parks and Tad Mitchell, students visited local organizations and corporations including GE Test Operations, the Jack McCoy Lumber Company, the Greene Beanery, the Adams County Regional Medical Center, Venture Productions, Maca Plastics, the Adams County Regional Water District, Winchester Wholesale, Moyers Vineyards and Winery, the Quilt Barn Trail, Buzzard’s Roost, and the government offices in the Adams County Courthouse.
According to Parks, “The kids had the opportunity to talk with successful business owners who can help them with networking opportunities to help them achieve the goals they’ve set in life.”
George Hesler, (NAHS) said he was most impressed with the entrepreneurs and the advice they gave. “I think everyone gave us something that was worth knowing,” said Hesler.
West Union senior Janson Kramer said, “I enjoyed GE, and figuring out that there’s more to Adams County than I thought.”
Sarah McFarland (PHS), said her favorite experience was hiking Buzzard’s Roost with Superintendent Seas. “He let us know him on a more personal level, and we learned just how much he cares about the community,” said McFarland.
Each student was required to choose a goal to pursue during the 11-month program.
The graduates of Leadership Adams will serve as a networking resource for the students. Members use their connections to help the students meet people who can offer them solutions and ideas as they work to achieve their goals.
“We meet with them in the fall to go over their goals with them, and see what they’ve accomplished, and where they need help,” said Parks. “We help them find solutions by introducing them to people who can assist them – it’s all about networking and learning how to use connections and resources that are available to them.”
In December the students will join Leadership Adams in presenting five $1,000 checks to the county’s Homeless Shelter and four food pantries.
“Wherever the students go to school they’ll be part of the entourage that presents the check to their local food pantry,” said Parks.
In April the students will join Leadership Adams members in Columbus for Adams County’s Capitol Day, where they will meet their state representatives.
In May they participated in Leadercast, a leadership and personal growth day held at Southern State Community College.
Parks says he hopes the program will convince the students to return to the area after college.
Several of the students say they do plan on living in the county after graduating.
North Adams senior Caitlin Young commented on her her favorite Academy experience. “It was learning how you could be successful without leaving Adams County,” said Young. “There’s a lot of good businesses here. I plan on coming back to Adams County. I don’t want to leave, it’s my home.”
Camryn Gordley (PHS) said, “I really enjoyed going to the different companies highlighting the opportunities in the county. It made me realize that Adams County is a really good place to live, a good place to get a job. There’s a lot of good things here and people.”
Shannon Runyan (WUHS) said the week “really opened her eyes to all the opportunities in the county”.
“This is an excellent group of kids,” Parks said, “Some are at the top of their class, some are just full of potential. By giving them the leadership tools they need for their future success and showing them what Adams County has to offer, we hope they choose to come back after college to make Adams County and even better place.”
For more information about Leadership Adams go to www.leadershipadams.org.