By Johnny Jackson
Aspiring leaders of tomorrow will take their first steps toward a future of community service and leadership today.
Youth Empowerment, Inc. - a local, non-profit, youth-leadership, service organization founded in 2006 by retired U. S. Army Lt. Col. Ronnie Brincefield - will host its first graduation and awards ceremony today. The group should not be confused with a Riverdale organization that has a similar name: Youth Empowerment Project.
In January, the organization shifted its efforts to the school house, involving dozens of high schoolers in an after-school, youth-leadership program designed to train students in various life skills - leadership, public speaking, decision-making, physical fitness, character-building, entrepreneurship and community service.
"Our goal is to empower them to be responsible and productive citizens," said Brincefield, founder and executive director. "I just wanted to start a leadership program that educates youth, particularly high school students, on life-enchancing skills."
Youth Empowerment recently concluded its pilot after-school program, which served students at Stockbridge High School.
Students in the program, which is open to all high schoolers, meet every Tuesday and Wednesday, from 3:30 - 4:45 p.m. During that time, students learn from leaders in the community, hearing from guest speakers who include entrepreneurs, tradesmen, and local officials.
"What they're doing everyday is laying the foundation of going on to college or pursing a trade," said Jillian White, the organization's director of operations. "We expose them to having different people come in ... It gives the kids an option outside of college."
The program is free to participants and is geared toward building character, strengthening decision-making skills, and reinforcing the value of community service in teenaged students.
"Our mission," White said, "is to provide high school students with the skills needed to become model citizens, dedicated to serving their schools, their families, and their communities.
"The goal is definitely for the students to leave knowing that they have acquired the skills necessary to go out and represent themselves, academically and professionally, through giving back to their community and behaving appropriately."
This year's Youth Empowerment Star Leader Award recipients - the four students out of each grade-level at Stockbridge who have exemplified the program's purpose - include: freshman, Matthew Clayton, sophomore, Courtney Harrison, junior, Charles Robinson, and senior, Joseph Bogan, who plans to attend Fort Valley State University this fall.
"I am so excited," said Angela Lewis, program director. "We had such an exceptional year. We had students come into the program a little rough around the edges, but with the proper nurturing and being consistent ... they are totally different students from when they entered the program."
The program is sponsored, in part, by local companies such as Georgia Power, Allan Vigil Ford, Chick-fil-A, Walgreens, and Paragon Security Systems.
The program's graduation and awards ceremony, to honor students who successfully participate in the program, will be held today, from 11a. m. - 1 p.m., at Stockbridge High School, 1151 Old Conyers Road in Stockbridge.
During the ceremony, some 35 Stockbridge High School students will be honored for completing the organization's pilot youth leadership program.
Leaders in the organization plan to expand the program next year to four additional high schools in Henry and Clayton counties.
To learn more about the Youth Empowerment organization and its youth leadership program, visit the Youth Empowerment web site.
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