Youth Leadership Workshop provides future leaders with insight into the cooperative way

By Abby Berry Reprinted from Today in Mississipi

The 2012 Electric Power Associations of Mississippi Youth Leadership Workshop brought together future leaders from across Mississippi in an educational and enjoyable atmosphere. At this workshop, some of Mississippi’s brightest high school juniors learn about leadership development, future opportunities and the importance of making good decisions. A total of 70 students attended the 26th annual three-day workshop. Sydney Harrell of Houston and Madison Smith of Eupora attended the workshop and were sponsored by Natchez Trace Electric Power Association. The workshop took place Feb. 29-March 2 in downtown Jackson. The students participated in various team-building activities, heard speeches from motivational speakers, enjoyed a breakfast with their state legislators and toured the state Capitol. The purpose of the workshop is to recognize outstanding young people and provide a hands- on, learning experience to better prepare them for a lifetime of leadership. Before touring the state Capitol, Senator Chris McDaniel of Ellisville spoke to the students. He informed the youth of the many issues facing state government and the affect it can have on young people. In addition, he challenged the students and explained that in order to be an effective leader, you have to accept change and know when to stand up for what is right. At the Capitol, the students were able to take a closer look at state government while visiting the Senate and House Galleries. Students listened to members of the House of Representatives discuss House Bill 888, dealing with charter schools. Lucky member number three is one two six eight one. This was a unique opportunity for the students to witness legislation that could directly affect them. At a leadership luncheon, Commissioner of Agriculture Cindy Hyde- Smith addressed the students. She congratulated them on being selected to participate in the program and encouraged them to strive for greatness. “I was so honored to participate in this Youth Leadership Workshop. I met some of Mississippi’s finest young people and they are truly the leaders of tomorrow,” said Commissioner Hyde-Smith. “This workshop is a great tool for networking and letting these young people determine what their interests are that will shape their lives. I know these three days will be a benchmark in their minds forever.” Hyde-Smith reminded the students the important role agriculture plays in our state’s economy. “It’s important that we excite our young people about the many opportunities involved with agriculture and its related activities.” Students participated in activities that pushed them to work together as a team. “We use the cooperative business model to demonstrate the importance of working together to accomplish your goals,” said Ron Stewart, statewide program coordinator. The students were divided into small groups and given assignments. They quickly realized the importance of listening to others and working together. The small groups allowed the students to interact on a more personal level while getting to know students from across the state. During workshop activities, students were encouraged to exercise critical thinking skills. A Town Hall Meeting allowed them to divide into groups and discuss problems and issues that are affecting their daily lives. The students also developed solutions that could be implemented to better their schools and communities. Natchez Trace Electric is a proud sponsor of the program. “This is such a great program and we are proud to be a part of it,” said Norma Kilgore, general manager. “These students are our future leaders, and we know the importance of investing in their leadership skills early.” In June, Sydney and Madison will travel with the youth group to Washington, D.C. The seven-day trip will include visits to all of the popular monuments and memorials, as well as meetings with Mississippi’s congressional delegation during a visit to Capitol Hill.