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Alamance Youth Leadership Academy for local middle school students hosted at Elon

Students learned how to become community leaders in a program that was made possible through the Center for Leadership and their community partners.

The Center for Leadership teamed up with the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce and the Alamance-Burlington School System last week for the Alamance Youth Leadership Academy (AYLA).

AYLA is a three and a half day program for rising seventh grade students with the goal to empower participants through civic enga

gement and leadership development. Through the program, students practice teamwork, communication, utilizing resources, presentation skills, problem solving and develop core leadership skills. Through forming strength in those specific skills, students are able to identify and create improvement plans for their school. This year, 92 students participated in the summer program.

Students brainstormed possible changes that would improve their school environment, such as anti-bullying programs, campus beautification, and community service. At the end of the program, students have the opportunity to present their ideas to their family members and school administrators.

The AYLA program an aquatic theme as students learned about the FISH! Philosophy. Additionally, students participated in the Elon Challenge Course and practiced their public speaking. While the program focusing on developing vital skills, facilitators promote a fun, collaborative atmosphere.

Facilitators serve as both mentors and guides for students as they communicates and discover effective ways they can make a meaningful impact in their school community. This year half of the 17 facilitators were Elon students while the others included students from other universities and local high school students.

“This experience has been both rewarding and exhausting in the best way possible,” said facilitator Claudia Rodriguez '17. “Being able to play a role in the future leadership of the kids in our community has been something I will treasure for a very long time.”

Devon Spieker '18 served as the student coordinator this year. As a Leadership Fellow, he was introduced to the AYLA Program during his first year at Elon and said he was happy to have increased his involvement with the program.

“The growth you see in just three days is incredible,” said Speiker. “You see students go from complaining about their schools to forming plans to better their schools and presenting that plan to a room of 350 people.”

The room of 350 people was comprised of comprised of parents, family members, teachers, and community members in addition to school facilitators. Spieker said that he was impressed by the ideas that students were able to formulate.

“I don’t know what I was doing in seventh grade, but it wasn’t that,” he said.

The Center for Leadership began it's parternship with Turrentine Middle School in 2001 with the goal to encourage youth community members to become leaders within their school communities. The program was able to expand in 2007 when the Center for Leadership partnered with the Alamance Chamber of Commerce.

Since the partnership, the amount of participating schools has increased each year, with 11 schools this year. This was the first year that all public schools in Alamance County have participated.

For more information, visit the AYLA and/or Chamber of Commerce websites.

By Melina Casados '18

Dana Pursley,
6/22/2016 1:30 PM