By Jason A. Smith
Trey Wagers said his involvement in the Youth Leadership Henry program has taught him more about his community, and about himself.
"What stood out to me is how Henry County emphasized the building and bettering of our community," said Wagers, a 16-year-old sophomore at Community Christian School in Stockbridge. "It showed me that the leaders of the community do take an interest in the community. It showed me the amount of people that are interested in helping our county."
Wagers was one of 40 Henry County 10th-graders participating in the eight-month leadership program. A graduation ceremony was held Monday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Wagers said he enjoyed touring the speedway.
"You pass by the same things every day, but you don't really ever totally understand it until it's presented to you and explained," he said.
Wagers added that he "absolutely" recommends the program to those currently in ninth-grade in Henry County, who may be considering enrolling in Youth Leadership Henry.
Youth Leadership Henry is a program of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce designed to mirror the Leadership Henry program for adults, by teaching students about the history of the county, and promoting community involvement.
Kay Pippin, president of the Henry Chamber, said the program provides young people with the tools to be successful. "Our future is in our youth," she said. "We have some very bright, very capable young people. Now is the time to be shaping them to be the leaders of tomorrow."
Pippin lauded the students for their interest in the program, and in learning about the county.
"They're engaged in their communities, and they're going to make an outstanding group of future leaders," Pippin said.
Aggie Combs has been on the board of directors for Youth Leadership Henry since 1998, and served as a coordinator for this year's program. She said the project, which began locally in 1995, makes participants more familiar with the inner workings of their local and state governments.
"It gives them an opportunity to meet with key players in those areas," said Combs. "It's important because they get some sense of what government does for them, especially on the local level."
Other elements of Youth Leadership Henry, Combs continued, include information about Henry's public safety and education realms, as well as visits to the State Capitol, the Henry County Jail and Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"You'd be amazed at some of the questions they came up with," Combs said. "I hope they got excited about pursuing a career in one of the areas to which they were exposed."
She added that each of the students who enrolled in the program met all of the criteria for graduation and were able to attend the graduation ceremony.
"It shows their dedication," she said. "They were truly interested in what we were offering them, and seemed excited about it."
Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer has served on the Youth Leadership Henry board since 2001.
"It's a combination of where Henry County has been, where it is now and where it's going in the future," he said of the program.
The sheriff added that the students learned about industries in the county, and about the value of taking responsibility for their community.
Giselle Devot, 16, of McDonough, took part in the leadership program at the suggestion of past participants. A sophomore at Henry County High School, Devot said it was an "excellent" way for her to learn about her community.
"I enjoyed learning how things work together in the county, to make the county stand out," she said. "I'm lucky I got to take part in it."