YOUth LEAD holds first session of year

Published 9:32 pm Thursday, October 16, 2008

The 2008 YOUth LEAD class had its first session yesterday at Alabama Southern Community College in Demopolis.

Dr. Ken Tucker, dean of business at the University of West Alabama, gave a seminar about leadership and working with diversity.

“We talked a good bit about communication, barriers to effective communication,” Tucker said. “We talked about a lot of things they can do to become effective communicators. We spent some time talking about leaders having expectations of themselves and of others. We talked about being a transition figure, stopping the transmission of negative behaviors and attitudes and actions to other people.

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“We talked a lot about leaders accepting responsibility and not pointing fingers and blaming other people. We talked about team building and valuing differences and seeing diversity as a strength.”

Tucker enjoyed being a part of the session.

“The whole point was trying to give them concepts of how to become more effective and more successful leaders,” he said. “It was highly interactive, highly participative. We did push-ups, arm wrestling, had a NASA space survival example and had some good videos that illustrated it all. Again, the whole point was to bring them together and recognize that by working together and valuing differences, we can accomplish a whole lot more by working together.

“With the NASA example, we did that individually, then we put them in teams, and they went through the process again as a team, and in every case, the team result was far, far superior than the individual result. That just illustrates the point that we all bring different things to the table — different experiences, backgrounds, likes, dislikes — but, by coming together, the result is far superior and they get a much better outcome than a bunch of individuals doing their own thing. It was a really fun thing to do.”

YOUth LEAD takes 20 to 25 high school students from Demopolis High School and John Essex High School each year to help them develop as leaders. Today’s session at Alabama Southern was the first of four sessions the group will have. The next session will be on Thursday, Nov. 13, from 7:45 a.m. to noon at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital’s classroom, where they will learn about economics. The graduation luncheon will be held on April 16.

This year’s class — the fourth class of YOUth LEAD — includes Lauren Atkins, Alan Brooker, Olivia Brooker, Tyler Brooker, Morgan Cooper, Madison Duckworth, William Hill, Tre’ Jones, Jacob Kerby, Morgan LeCroy, Mary Riffe, Colin Russell, Shelby Speegle, Maggie Spiller, Anna Stuedeman, Tori Troupe, Samantha Walker and Willie Wallace of Demopolis High School and Brittany Brown, Zameke Fluker, Almetrice Johnson, Sekeshia Little and Bridgette Tucker of John Essex High School.

The YOUth LEAD board members are chair Catherine Meador, vice-chair Nancy Tyson, treasurer Kayte Melton, secretary Lucina Mason, Katie Echols, Kathryn Friday and Braxton Spahos.

“It’s similar to Leadership Marengo in that we form a youth version to enhance leadership, develop community-service-minded kids and to provide a way to network with other youth in the Demopolis area,” Meador said. “We distribute applications at the schools, and the students apply. They have to get signatures from their parents and counselors so we know they aren’t struggling students who can take this extra activity. We try to get a diverse group by age, gender and race, and they aren’t all athletes or all student government — not all clearly leaders, but who have the potential to be leaders. We don’t let them come back from previous years. It’s a one-year program; that way, we can reach more students while they’re in high school. Plus, we do a lot of the same activities each year.

“Today was ‘Getting to Know Us,’ so we talked about Marengo County, the demographics. We learned about leadership and communications. It was a good first session. Once they loosen up and aren’t afraid to interact, this will be an outstanding group.

“We hope that we have planted seeds and inspired, and they can take those seeds back to the other clubs that they are involved in,” she said.

“I enjoyed Mr. Ken Tucker,” said Colin Russell, a sophomore at Demopolis High School, who said he wanted to become a psychiatrist and get a business degree. “He talked about how to be a good leader, and I really appreciated all the exercises he did with us. I wanted to join YOUth LEAD because I’m on the student council and a DECA officer, and I want to learn how to be a better leader.

“I’m hoping to be a better leader at the end of the year and take it back and do it in real life with student council and DECA.”

“We learned about team building,” said Almetrice Johnson, a junior at John Essex High School who said he wanted to become a health care administrator. “I always wanted to run my own business or run my own hospital to make it easier for people who can’t afford a hospital.”

The group will attend the Jan. 15 Demopolis City Council meeting and the Jan. 26 Demopolis City Schools meeting, and will also go to Montgomery with Leadership Marengo on March 12.