Originally created 09/23/96

Youth Leadership Augusta: teaching about the Garden City



At 15, Jackie Travis isn't so sure she wants to spend the rest of her life in Augusta. She dreams of going to college in Atlanta - a city brimming with opportunities for a young, ambitious mind.

But like other participants of Youth Leadership Augusta, she also knows her roots.

That's why Jackie will be spending the next year attending seminars and taking monthly field trips to Augusta institutions with 44 other teens to learn more about the city she grew up in.

"I hope to recognize people I don't really think much about, like the mayor, and all the people I don't see that much," the Lucy C. Laney High School student said. "And I hope to learn the history of where I live."

An off-shoot of Leadership Augusta, a similar class for civic-minded adults, the goal is to groom future leaders for the city, said Steve Blanchard, co-chair of the project.

"The adult class tries to get people up to speed with what's happening in various areas - government, education, health, the arts - all kinds of different sectors of the community," Mr. Blanchard said. "There was a feeling of, `Why don't we do this for the youth as well?"'

It's the third year the class is being held, and it's been a success so far, he added.

On Saturday, the teens spent the day participating in the Ropes Course to foster teamwork and get to know each other better before they hit the street.

T.J. Martin, a 16-year-old Lakeside High School student, said he first heard of Augusta Youth Leadership through a friend "who told me I'd like it."

"When I heard the term leadership I thought that would be a real good opportunity to learn more about how government works and how a society is run," he said. "It'll strengthen my skills."

Already pretty busy for a 16-year-old, T.J. will have to juggle the class with his duties as a youth leader in his church, on the Augusta Mall fashion board and with various charitable projects put on by the National Honor Society, of which he is a member.

"My family is completely from Augusta, so I might want to come back here after I go to college," he mused. "But I truly don't know what opportunities I have here, so that's what I want to learn more about."

Augusta Youth Leadership is also a way to meet teens from other parts of the city, or from different ethnic groups, said Vasant Kamath, 16, an Augusta Preparatory Day School student.

Augusta can be cliquish, and that's something the city must overcome to truly move forward, he said.

"You see it at community events - all sorts of people working together and it really isn't a problem," he said. "I think they should do those kinds of things more often."

As for himself, Vasant, also dreams of living in a bigger city one day.

"But before that, I want to see what Augusta has to offer," he said.