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Posted: April 26, 2014 4:51 p.m.

Leadership doesn’t require drama

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Judge Horace Johnson broke the news to Newton Youth Leadership Institute participants this week: “wrestling isn’t real.”

And neither is the drama on court television shows, he said.

Johnson said that sometimes people seem to think they can bring their drama into his courtroom, but it doesn’t happen on his watch.

Johnson’s comments seemed to set the theme for Tuesday’s leadership trip, the last of the year for 21 high school sophomores and juniors in the institute.

Newton County-Covington SWAT members also addressed the group about the challenges and realities of their jobs.

When citizens need help, they call local law enforcement. But when local law enforcement needs help, they call in SWAT.

Students were excited to tour the SWAT vehicle and admire the impressive array of tools the team has available, but team members reminded students they do not simply show up with guns blazing—their job is to bring the situation under control with as little drama as possible.

A happy ending for all is one where no force is needed after all, although unfortunately that doesn’t always happen.

SWAT members practice and prepare continually so they are always ready.

Sergeant Randy Downs also told students that sometimes the toughest part of the job isn’t something that happens at work—it can be as simple as getting a call while on the way to a child’s athletic event.

No parent wants to let their child down, but SWAT team members commit their careers, and lives, to protecting not just their own children, but everyone else as well. This is a job where you can’t clock out and five and count on an easy evening.

We also took a peek at what was publically available online about each student. Searching with a student’s name, school and e-mail address, which are all generally available on an application, information popped up on social media sites, newspaper articles, product reviews, photo sites and more.

Some was from many years past, but it was all information easily found by a potential employer or scholarship committee.

While some people seem to thrive off drama online, misleading quotes and photos could give a negative first impression, and could result in that being your last chance to impress that employer or committee.

Finally, the group tackled teambuilding and ropes with Leroy Bagley of the FFA-FCCLA Center.

After a challenge where teams had to work together to cross the finish line as a single unit, youths commented on what did and didn’t work.

They agreed that sometimes a good leader lets someone else take the lead, instead of fighting for control and causing drama. Blaming those who might have slipped or mis-stepped didn’t get the team to the finish line.
The final challenge looked a little daunting: work as a team of 10 or 11 to conquer the mud course.

Yes, challenges like climbing a wall in the middle of pits of sloshy, gooey, smelly, bright-red mud and water.

On the first challenge, some eagerly let others take the lead as they stepped farther and farther back to the end of the line.

By the time both teams emerged from the last tunnel, several were begging to tackle the course a second time.

At the end of five days of leadership activities and two additional assignments, 21 youths explored leadership right down to the nitty-gritty, quite literally. And they emerged victorious, if a little muddy.

Students will graduate at a banquet this week held in their honor.

Alcovy students are Jordan Brown, Dora Flynn, Emma Golden and Abigail Vanderwolf.

Eastside students are Tyler Banks, Alli Coberth, Aspen Dobbins, Sam Hay, Evan House, Catherine Laseter, Madison Long, Delaney Murphy, Cassie Warthen and Amanda Weaver.

Students representing Newton are Kiara Connell, Rhyan Davis, Trinity Harrison, Sarah Mitchell and Ann-Marie Nwokoro.

Andrew Collart and Mary Hammer are home school students.

Special thanks to Snapping Shoals EMC’s Ray Cheek for chaperoning and driving throughout the year. Financial sponsorship is provided by the Newton County-Covington Chamber of Commerce’s “Chamber Champions” and Snapping Shoals EMC.

To learn more about our Youth Leadership Institute, visit our website at www.ugaextension.com/newton. Next year’s applications will be available in September or October.

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