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Program launched for youth

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
The leaders of Brewton's future are among us, and they will be involved in the first Youth Leadership Brewton Class beginning next week.
Each year, at the end of the Greater Brewton Area Chamber of Commerce's Adult Leadership Class, members must develop and complete a final project. In the past, adult classes have built a new bridge at the Girl Scout Hut and built a Pavilion on the playground at Dogwood Hills among other things. The Adult Leadership Class VII decided to follow a different direction and developed a youth leadership class.
The students are the future and the quicker we expose them to the community in general, the better off they will be," said Thad Moore Jr., a member of the adult class VII. "One day they will be United Way board members or Little League baseball coaches. We wanted to expose them to as much as possible."
Class VII is actually a little behind due to two hurricanes – Ivan and Dennis - which postponed plans and a start-date. The day members were to make a presentation at each high school, Hurricane Ivan hit. The next scheduled presentation was when Hurricane Dennis threatened the area. However, the class project finally got underway and will begin with a ropes course on Sept. 27.
As a prelude to the project, members of the adult class VII met with individuals, including the superintendents of the city and county school system and principals from T.R. Miller and W.S. Neal high schools. In addition to meeting with school officials, members held presentations and they had to raise money for the project.
Knowing they didn't want just a class full of only honors students, members developed a questionnaire for juniors to fill out, and students were chosen based on the answers they gave. Members of the adult class wanted a "good cross section" of students from T.R. Miller and W.S. Neal.
The questions included, "What is your proudest accomplishment? Who in the community do you admire most and why? If involved in activities, what are they? What do you expect to gain from the leadership class? "
More than 40 applications were processed and 14 juniors from the two local high schools combined were chosen.
The youth class will mirror portions of the adult classes. For eight months beginning Sept. 27, youths will participate once a month in special classes that involve a variety of activities.
The first class entails a ropes course at Adventures Unlimited. Moore said that the ropes course is a great first class because "when you get there you don't always know people. It teaches you the concept that things get done more easily when you work as a team instead of individually."
The following months, students in the class will be entertained by a variety of guests, including the dean of the Business school at the University of South Alabama who will talk to them about leadership/communications; an officer with the Drug Task Force and the Domestic Violence Unit who will speak about law; government representatives from Brewton and East Brewton and possibly a politician at the state level who will speak about local and state government; a college recruiter who will speak about how to prepare for college.
Students will also have the opportunity to go on tours and visit area businesses and industries including NDI and Smurfit Stone among other places, and they will tour Jefferson Davis Community College to get a feel of what college life is like. The last class is scheduled for April 11 and students will learn about the healthcare facilities in the area and what services they have to offer.
A lot of planning and fundraising went into the class project, Moore said, and being a member of the youth class doesn't cost students a dime. More than $4,000 was raised so that the students of the youth class could get the hands-on experiences each month.
At the close of the youth class, students will be honored with a banquet. Moore said that he and other members hope that the youth class will develop a project like the adult leadership classes do.
As a "graduate" of the Adult Leadership Class VII, Moore said he gained an experience he wouldn't trade for the world.