Youth Leadership Blount class holds graduation
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Twenty-eight high school sophomores in Blount County became the latest to complete the Youth Leadership Blount program that began in August of last year and ended with awards and graduation last week.
Amanda Gillooly, director, said this year’s class started out with an overnight retreat at Eagle Rock Camp at the first of the school year. Each month included an outing where students got to learn about different aspects of their community. They got to take an overnight trip to Nashville as well, one of the students’ favorite activities.
These sophomores were nominated to be part of YLB by either teachers, pastors or other members of the community, Gillooly said. Last year there were 18 class members. From here forward, there will be 28, she said.
The Class of 2013 includes Sarah Amburn, Kaylin Bailey, Daniel Brimer, Kelsie Bruch, Nolan Carpenter, Kori Cupp, Bryce Dills, Steven Dirmeyer, Lauren Dunn, Blake Griffith, JC Hunter, Hope Jones, Madeline Leonard, Desmond Montoya, Sheridan Murphy, Trevor Perry, Tyler Plumlee, Bekah Satterfield, Katie Simerly, Ally Stevenson, Faith Stewart, Mark Treadway, Taylor Trube, Zack Vitale, Delaney Whitt, Ashley Williams, Katie Woodfin and Joe Wright.
Above and beyond
Two of the graduates — Cupp and Montoya — received special recognition at graduation for their work on extra projects. Gillooly gave the class an option to complete 10 extra activities over the course of the year. Cupp and Montoya completed them all.
“They had a lot of different things to choose from,” Gillooly said. “There was everything from volunteering at a nonprofit to going to a city or county commission meeting to going on a college tour. They even did a ride-a-long with the sheriff’s office.”
Montoya said he volunteered at April Foolies and collected toys for Toys for Tots. In addition, he also helped Second Harvest Food Bank. The ride-a-long with the Blount County Sheriff’s Office was an eye-opener, Montoya said. “I got to see a lot of things through being a part of Youth Leadership Blount.”
This home-schooled student said he wanted to be part of YLB to help prepare him for the future and give him a better understanding of his community. There were a lot of great opportunities, he said.
One of his teachers nominated Montoya for YLB. His favorite part of the experience was the Nashville trip.
Gillooly said the intent of offering students the chance to complete the extra activities was to get these young people to learn about different aspects of their community that correlate to the topics they learned about over the last 10 months.
“I had no idea if anybody would care about doing it,” the director said. “I just put it out there with an unknown prize at the end. Everybody did at least one or two or three things on the list.”
Because Cupp and Montoya completed all of the extra assignments, they won the prize, which was a tour of the Air National Guard’s refueling unit at McGhee Tyson.
Leaving their mark
This class, like those before it, was also required to come up with a Legacy Project. They had plenty of leeway on just what they could do. These students chose to make an anti-bullying video under the leadership of Delaney Whitt and Nolan Carpenter.
The group wrote their own script and starred in the video, which was edited by members at First Apostolic Church in Maryville. The video, which runs under a minute, was shown at graduation. It will now be made available to all of the local school systems. Gillooly said the students are also trying to get it aired at the movie theater prior to the showing of movies.
“They did all of the work themselves,” Gillooly said. “They had a lot of different ideas they could have gone with but ultimately they decided this affects everyone. I was really proud.”
This was Gillooly’s first year with YLB. She said each year the students fill out evaluations on how the year went and any suggestions for improvements. Next year, she said she wants to be able to bring the YLB group together with the adult Leadership Blount members. “That’s something we have wanted to do for a long time,” she said. “It will be a chance to interact and meet each other.”
The YLB Class of 2014 has already been selected and will be announced soon. It also has 28 members. Sophomores in Blount County who will be able to gain a better understanding of where they live so they can become better leaders.
“It was a great experience for me,” Montoya said.