Most of the 41 members of the Gordon County Chamber of Commerce's Youth Leadership Class gathered on Sunday for an orientation session to kick off the current edition of the annual program.
Student leaders representing all four local high schools participated in activities intended to help them get to know one another and to learn more about the things they'll be doing as members of the new class.
Nichol Linn with the chamber's Youth Leadership Committee said the students will, among other things, attend meetings of the Calhoun City Council and Gordon County Board of Commissioners, visit the state Capitol, learn about local emergency services, businesses, hospitals and participate in an outdoor adventure.
Linn said the leadership program is quite popular with students and that those who attend every session can apply for a $1,000 scholarship at the end of the class.
"This is a difficult program to get into," she said.
Some members of the leadership class will also have the opportunity to help organize the chamber's Candidates Forum on Thursday, Oct. 3, at the Depot in downtown Calhoun. The volunteers will also work with members of the local media to ask questions of the candidates during the event.
Members of the Youth Leadership Committee volunteer to plan and organize the sessions, which take place between October and March 2020 throughout Calhoun and Gordon County. More than 1,200 students have completed the program since its inception, many of them now working in Gordon County.
“The Gordon County Chamber of Commerce exerts its greatest power through partnerships, and the Gordon County Youth Leadership Program is an excellent example of that principle,” said Kathy Johnson, president and CEO of the chamber. “The program springs from cooperative relationships between a variety of business and community partners.”
The chamber committee is co-chaired by Brandi Hayes, director of College and Career Programs for Calhoun City Schools, and Larry Deaton, director of Strategic Management for the Georgia Department of Defense. The mission of the Gordon County Youth Leadership program is to provide students with a broader understanding of civic responsibilities and community resources, so they become more informed and engaged citizens as adults.
“I am so excited to work with the Gordon County Youth Leadership class of 2020! The students selected from all four high schools have demonstrated their leadership skills, as well as their school involvement through their applications,” Hayes. “I hope that we can continue to provide opportunities to develop this group of informed, committed and competent youth who are motivated to learn more about the Gordon County community, to assume leadership roles in the community and to become more involved in our civic, cultural, economic development and philanthropic organizations and groups.”
“I am proud to welcome this new group of emerging community leaders to the Gordon County Youth Leadership class,” added Deaton. “Our vision is to be known as a program that equips the next generation of community leaders with the skills to serve and achieve their future dreams. For the past twenty-five years, I have watched numerous students come through the program and I am happy to report that many are currently serving within our community in various roles. Our own committee has four graduates from previous classes who are volunteering their time to mentor the next generation of future leaders.
“The students selected for this program are already leaders in their schools. We want to make them leaders in the community where they live, work and play. Many will leave Gordon County in the future, but we still will have planted the service seed and anticipate these students serving wherever life takes them,” Deaton continued. “As we begin this cycle, I look forward to seeing what this class can achieve. They are only limited by their abilities to succeed."
The students in the program include: Maggie Anderson, Ella Bennett, Carter Blackstock, Brooke Childs, Gage Darby, Lauren DeFoor, Kinsey Dennis, Drew Eickman, Tylor Einhellig, Vivianne Funes, Andrew Gallman, Yesenia Garcia, Lillian Glass, Katlyne Green, Aubrey Green, Ashley Hartness, Kaige Hegarty, Ariana Hernandez, Amelia Hunt, Cooper Hunt, Ann Fogle Jones, Mary-Kathryn Kendrick, Aavyn Lee, Aurora Lopez, Jessica Lopez, Molly Mashburn, Carolina Morgan, Tripp Morrison, Valerie Narvaez, Riya Patel, Luke Peden, Florence Phillips, John Rainwater, Alex Repp, Andie Robinson, Jenna Santori, Sierra Scott, Zoey Stephens, Ben Stewart, Ashley Vasquez and Sarah Beth Vaughn.
Gordon County Youth Leadership is sponsored by Billie Erwin, Greater Community Bank, Bobby F. Harris Foundation, Hall Realty, Housing Authority of the City of Calhoun, Alvin Long, Mathews-Parlo Carpet Wholesalers, North Georgia E.M.C., Prater Ford Inc., Mitch Ralston Sheriff’s Auxiliary, Tom and Carol Shanahan, Starr-Mathews Insurance Agency and Synovus.
The chamber is also still taking nominations for the adult version of the class, called Leadership Calhoun/Gordon. Orientation for the next class is set for Nov. 4, while the first 2020 activities will begin with a weekend retreat Jan. 17-19. There is a $425 fee for participants.
The adult leadership program’s calendar consists of two meetings a month that include orientation, weekend retreat, education, government, health, community resources, economic (including business and industry tours), outdoor adventure, local judicial and arts/culture sessions and a final graduation ceremony in May.
Applications for the class are due Oct. 1.