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Posted: February 2, 2013 5:22 p.m.

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How are you preparing our next leaders?

What are you and I doing to give our next generation a clear path to leadership?

Or what are we doing to leave them unprepared?

The 25th class of the Newton Youth Leadership Institute travelled to the University of Georgia to learn about

leadership last week.
“You are not tomorrow’s leaders. You are leaders now, and you have a responsibility,” said Bo Ryles, a professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and past state 4-H leader.

He told the 21 sophomores and juniors from Newton County public, private and home schools that they need “a clear path to success.”

When I served on staff council at Columbus State University, we discussed the need for supervisors to provide staff with a plan for advancement.

We knew that some of the best employees might leave if they didn’t see a way to continue to work and strive toward a goal at the university.

It’s no different for youth.

So what are we doing to help our youth create this clear path?

I’d argue it starts very young.

I was amazed when a friend’s toddler son was expected to put away his own jacket, refrigerate the appropriate parts of his lunch and put away the rest at preschool.

I’d have done all those things for him, but the school knew that he was capable of more.

In college, a friend who still lived at home seemed amazed at shopping for a meal in Winn-Dixie. I have a feeling she was less than prepared for the day she moved out.

Chores are more than what they seem. Learning to do the things it takes to run a family just might have a greater purpose.

Likewise, something as simple as serving as a 4-H officer in a fifth grade club helps create that path to future leadership.

Of course, it might also expose a bossy leader, teaching the rest of the class something about how they should base their votes in the future.

It’s frustrating when I get to a classroom and the officers aren’t prepared, again. Or five months into meetings, the secretary reads the minutes as “fifty-nine” although you know he took proper notes last month.

But without this practical experience, they’ll never learn.

When I was 16, my church elected me to serve as an elder.

At a youth conference an adult said she couldn’t imagine electing youth, because they are far too committed to other things such as sports or clubs.

A youth deacon answered her perfectly. He said that he was mature enough to recognize that ordination meant setting his priorities, and that session meetings and commitments were the first thing on his calendar, instead of something he wedged in between other activities.

Years later, I still hear adults who are unsure of electing a youth, saying they felt unprepared even as a 40-year-old at ordination.

But that’s exactly why I think it served me well — it gave me a chance to observe and learn at an age when perhaps I was a little less set in my ways, and also concretely illustrated to me that this was a place in my life that not only needed leaders, but valued my contribution even at a young age.

The Newton Youth Leadership Institute has taught local youth for 25 years to discover their potential and expand their skills, as well as exposed them to roles that are needed to fill in our community and state.

It is facilitated by Newton County Cooperative Extension and 4-H and financially backed by the Newton County Chamber of Commerce and Snapping Shoals EMC.

Students selected this year are Holly Cox, Sara Hodge, Morgan Kelly, Jessica Morgan and Tiffany Taylor of Alcovy High.

Also, Zachary Chambers, Taylor Heilesen, Alexis Langford, Destiny Sessums, Kimberly Stier and Alexandria Turcotte of Eastside High, and Ashley Hymon, Maiya Newton, Mikayla Newton and Bradford Porter of Newton High. 

Brecken Watts attends Young Americans, and Flannery Peay is a home school student. Bobby St. Clair, Miranda Cruse, Jerika Dillard and Courtney Smith represent Charter Challenge Academy.

To learn more about the program, please call our office at (770) 784-2010.

Terri Kimble is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at (770) 784-2010. or

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