Learning to lead

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Bradley Skalak, 16, swims year round, teaches younger swimmers how to make their way safely around the pool, baby-sits and volunteers at a hospital.

Beth Caldwell proposed a student advisory panel to the Richmond County Board of Education after she attended Youth Leadership Richmond County. The group meets tonight for the first time.  Chris Thelen/Staff
Chris Thelen/Staff
Beth Caldwell proposed a student advisory panel to the Richmond County Board of Education after she attended Youth Leadership Richmond County. The group meets tonight for the first time.

She is used to being a leader, but the Lakeside High School senior had no training in how to do it effectively.

That will change this year: She is one of 28 students who will begin nine months of training with Columbia County Youth Leadership on Thursday.

While learning team-building and leadership skills, the students spend one day each month exploring health care, business and industry, government and education, history and art and cultural aspects of the county. They also do community service.

Bradley is ready to be involved.

"It hasn't started, so I don't know what to expect, but from the people who've been through it, they say they understand how things work better and how things - everything from roads to bridges to where the money goes - gets done," she said. "I like the whole idea of the program. The way they take in high school students and let you go into places where they make the decisions for your school and your community ... That's sort of a rare opportunity."

Richmond County students can participate in a similar program, Youth Leadership Richmond County.

Anne Channell, 17, was a part of Youth Leadership Richmond County last school year.

"I thought it was a good opportunity to meet new people and make better connections in the community," the Academy of Richmond County senior said. "I definitely needed to improve my leadership skills."

After meeting with leaders from around the county, seeing how they worked and how things were done by those in charge, Anne left with a deeper understanding of the world around her and her place in it, she said.

Augusta businessman Steven Kendrick, the chairman of the Richmond County program, said that's part of the purpose of the organization.

"If the community is going to thrive and continue to move forward, we have to start giving some of the young students the tools to lead," Mr. Kendrick said. "A lot of students have the desire to lead but there are skill sets they need in order to lead."

Beth Caldwell, 17, said she finished the Richmond County program last year with a sense of the potential power of young people and more confidence in her own leadership skills.

"It's a boost," the John S. Davidson Fine Arts School senior said. "You leave, you learn that it's almost your duty that if you see a problem do something about it."

Last year she appeared before the Richmond County Board of Education and asked that students also be given a listening ear. Her proposal - for the county to set up a board of students who will give suggestions - was accepted by the board in May.

The Student Advisory Committee, made up of 10 Richmond County high school students, including Beth, meets tonight for the first time.

Committee member Nicholas Townes, 17, said he is excited about the chance to step forward.

"I knew I had to step up and do something," said Nicholas, a T.W. Josey High School senior. "I do have a lot of ideas. ... And I hear things and know that a lot of people are thinking the same things I'm thinking. That's what I want to bring to teen advisory board. I want them to know what it means to be a student."

Student leaders bring something different to the table, Beth said.

"Students just give a new perspective to things," she said. "A lot of the time, they are very creative. They have the ability to solve problems just as adults do. Plus, it's always a good idea to be involved in things that matter to you."

Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or kamille.bostick@augustachronicle.com.

Learn more

Although this year's class is full, learn more about leadership programs for next year:

Columbia County Youth Leadership

www.columbiacountychamber.com/YOUTHLEADERSHIP.html or call Chris Baum at (706) 651-0018

Youth Leadership Richmond County

www.ylrc.org or call Steven Kendrick at (706) 722-6488

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