BEDFORD COUNTY— More than 250 students from the Bedford County area have successfully completed the Youth Leadership Bedford County program. This has been an active –month servant leadership development program for 10th graders in the county.
“This will be the 11th year for the program,” said Kellie Goodman Shaffer, President/CEO of the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce. “The class, comprised of 24 students representing all of the high schools in the county, begins their year with an orientation and then retreat at White Sulphur Springs where they participate in a variety of team-building exercises,” said Shaffer.
Shaffer said the students will meet monthly at various places throughout the county for themed days: Communication, History/Heritage, Health & Wellness, Education, Judicial System, Economic Development, Project Planning, etc. During each session they explore these aspects of the county, including careers, leadership principals, etc. They also have a monthly lesson on leadership based on Sean Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Some of the other elements of the program include an etiquette session, public speaking, homework assignments, and a “share your talent” show. They also work together on a class project designed to give something back to the community.
“This year’s class is holding a dance marathon to benefit the Bedford County Humane Society and the United Way,” said Shaffer.
“Youth Leadership Bedford County does a great job of introducing local students to business leaders and engaging them in projects and events that are making a difference,” said Angie Berzonski, Foundation Program and Communications Officer. “This is a program aimed at nurturing and retaining young talent for our region, and we’ve been happy to fund it through our Distribution Committee.”
“We are extremely grateful for the CFA grants over the years that have supported the program. The grants are used to provide materials (books, etc.) to the students as well as lunches, transportation, facilitation, etc. The grants are becoming more and more important due to the ever-dwindling EITC dollars that were once the main funding source of YLBC,” said Shaffer.
The Youth Leadership Program in Bedford County has really grown over the years, according to Shaffer. It’s also making an impact in the county and is something teenagers want to be a part of.
“The program has evolved over the years reflecting changes in the business community. For example, when the program began the Bedford Springs Resort had not yet re-opened; now it is a key part of our Economic Development day and students love the opportunity to tour the resort. We have also added volunteers to our planning committee and session planning groups who bring new ideas and perspectives to the program,” said Shaffer. “Last year, we were able to expand the class to 26 students; this year we have one of our largest interview pools ever, and in response to the growing interest in the program, we will look to offer a one-day Youth Leadership Bedford County Summit to our Foundation’s offerings to be able to provide some of the elements of the program to a larger group of 10th graders beyond the original school-year program.”
“The Bedford County Youth Leadership has been an amazing program for the county and interest has grown expediently in all our school districts,” said Kay Reynolds, Director, Bedford County Endowments. “I feel so honored to meet the students and get to know them and the folks from the communities that coordinate the activities. It has been so successful that another county has implemented our model. I cannot overstate how proud I am of our Youth Leadership.”
Shaffer said it’s a true team effort to keep the program going in the county each year. People from local businesses, to the Chamber and even the schools all play a vital role in it. If there’s one thing Shaffer wants other communities to know about the YLBC program it’s how it impacts the students and the local areas.
“We want the public to know that the students in the community who seek out leadership opportunities are committed to making the world around them better. They leave YLBC with a better understanding of and appreciation for Bedford County, and with a heightened desire to make a difference in their communities. We are so proud of the 250+ students who have graduated from the program, and look forward to serving future classes.”
Shaffer said YLBC has made a significant impact in the county, not only changing the lives of the students who take part in the program, but also with a ripple effect of the students’ influence over their circle of friends, school communities, and the region.
“Our students routinely tell us that YLBC gives them more confidence to pursue their goals, to communicate and collaborate with others, and to address needs in their community,” said Shaffer.