MERIDIAN — Special to The Star
The 2014 Leadership Lauderdale Youth Graduation Banquet was recently held at the MSU-Meridian Kahlmus Auditorium. The class had representation of high school juniors from Northeast High School, Southeast High School, West Lauderdale High School, Clarkdale High School, Meridian High School, Lamar High School, Russell Christian Academy and home schoolers.
Each year the class is taught the “Stephen Covey’s, 7 Habits of a Highly Effective Teen” by Rev. Wayne Edwards, pastor of Midway Baptist Church, and assisted by Dusty Culpepper. Patty Swearingen, County Coordinator with Mississippi State University – Extension Service, facilitates all the planning aspects of the program.
The participants are high school juniors who submit a detailed application in September. Once the participants are selected, they attend a two day retreat to get to know each other and to do team building activities.
Then, monthly meetings are held with a focus that includes Business and Industry, Government and Law Enforcement, Quality of Life, and Community Service. Community leaders and local businesses donate their time to help with the program by serving as speakers at the meetings or by letting them visit their facility or office and see what they offer the community. Each participant must also complete a community service project and present it to the class on the last meeting.
The climax of the year is the graduation banquet and Mr. Verdell Hawkins, Mississippi Power Company, was the keynote speaker this year. He discussed qualities of being a good leader and not just being a participant.
He stressed the importance of making sure that you surrounded yourself with people who wanted to strive to better their selves and who had good character. Ms. Abby Dennis, a former Leadership Lauderdale Youth participant, gave highlights of the program and told of the impact the program had on her life as she is now a second grade teacher at Poplar Springs Elementary School.
Those participating in the graduation were Sarah Avera, Taylor Blackwell, Ross Brewster, Richard Covington, Hannah Davis, Tate Dye, Myi Fikes, Mikayla Giles, Reed Green, Christopher Hicks, Erin Johnson, Jackson Kercheval, Ann Morgan Lamar, Noah Mathis, Nathaniel Pierce, Hannah Rogers, Morgan Ross, Kiana Walker and Walker Whitehead.