High school juniors from all across Surry County gathered Wednesday morning to take part in Youth Leadership Surry’s day of service.
Youth Leadership Surry participants were selected from a group of students who represented the top 20 percent of their junior class. The coordinator of the YLS, James Reams, who works for the Boy Scouts and Learning for Life, said the students in the group have exhibited “natural leadership abilities.”
“The goal of Youth Leadership is to help further develop the leadership skills they have and help them learn more about the area they live in so that they will move forward and then will hopefully choose to come back to us or at least take on a leadership role in whatever community they live in,” said Reams.
Students who were interested in becoming a part of the group filled out applications, wrote an essay, provided recommendations, and participated in an interview, with six students from each high school selected for the final group.
Reams said the students were inducted into the program in December of last year and they will work with the group through the first half of their senior year, with six daytime events planned, as well as a final banquet.
Wednesday was the first day of spring, which was a perfect for day for service, since the exposure to non-profit organizations will hopefully bloom inside the teenagers and lead to further involvement in the future.
Beth Pequeno, executive director for United Fund of Surry, addressed the room full of future leaders and described the role of United Fund in the community, as a non-profit organization that helps to fund and support 26 agencies in the county.
“United Fund allows agencies to do their job so they don’t have to spend so much time fundraising,” Pequeno told the students.
Pequeno also described the 2-1-1 call center to the group, which is a free service that provides confidential information and referrals to various agencies for help with food, employment, housing, health care, counseling, and more. Some of the money raised by United Fund pays for the use of 2-1-1 for Surry County residents.
Out of the more than 1,000 monthly calls to 2-1-1 in Surry County, the number one request was help with utilities, Pequeno said, and the number two request was food assistance.
Pequeno told the students that one in three children in Surry County are in families who are struggling.
After the presentation by Pequeno, the students were split into smaller groups, and each was assigned to a service project with a local non-profit agency.
James Reams said that the non-profit day “exposed the students to opportunities in the county where they can serve and help others.”
Students helped with projects at Reeves Community Center, Surry Arts Council, Mountain Valley Hospice, Yokefellow Ministries, Head Start, Webb Southern Community Center in Cana, Va., and Surry SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now), before meeting at Webb Southern Community Center for lunch.
After lunch, the students helped Jackie Savage, regional manager at the American Red Cross, with a service project by decorating and wrapping candy bars for distribution among future blood donors. The craft project was taught to the students by five-year Red Cross volunteer Carol Curan.
The YLS group held Crime and Justice Day in Dobson last month, with a tour of the jail, courthouse, an overview of the legal system, and information provided by Criminal Justice students at Surry Community College. Chad Hutchens with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office also spoke to the students about social media and identity theft.
Reams said the Youth Leadership Surry group will meet in April at Raven Knob for a day of leadership and team building activities. Future meetings include a day of recreation in Pilot Mountain, a day devoted to health care and small businesses in Elkin, and a day centered around history, travel, and tourism in Mount Airy.
The high school coordinators for each school included Karen Osborne Chandler with Surry Central, Donald Price with Mount Airy High School, David Hayes with North Surry and East Surry, and Patsy Burgess with Elkin High School.
Students who were chosen to serve in this year’s Youth Leadership Surry group include: Christopher Holshouser, Sophie Williams, Haylee Harrison, Melanie Pyles, Sara Richardson, Caleb Ramey, Peter Gosnell, Lindsey Badgett, Emma Harrison, Marissa Petri, Emily Chilton, Douglas Cao, Erin Griffith, Lauren Smith, Olivia West, Ashley Craddock, Maria Trejo, Mitchell Brown, William Allen, Aylin Aquilar, Sydney Peavy, Samuel Holder, Ellie Hooper, Davi Barbour, Courtney Beals, Mary-Frances Hall, Salena Ruvio and Chandler Musson.
Youth Leadership Surry is funded and guided by the Surry County Economic Development Foundation, with assistance from the Wells Fargo Foundation.
Reach Jessica Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1933.