The Grundy County Youth Leadership Program is in full swing again thanks to the grant awarded to the program by the Community Fund of the South Cumberland Plateau and the annual contribution commitment of many business and individual sponsors. In addition, Adult Leadership alumni were challenged to make a $20 annual contribution to this worthy program in order to create a sustainable program that will benefit Grundy County students far into the future.
Jessica Lusk, Grundy County High School teacher and Leadership sponsor, works hard to make this program one that all student participants will benefit from and enjoy. Youth Leadership targets sophomores and juniors at the school, helping to build leadership skills in student participants. The program is designed to advance participants knowledge in many topics including recognition of the natural beauty in Grundy County, improving team building skills, informing students on the workings of state and local government and the judicial system, teaching financial responsibility, and enhancing personal leadership skills.
The class is designed to identify strengths and weaknesses in the county and in the students themselves, to educate students, and to motivate students with a desire to become leaders in their school and community.
The 2014-2015 Youth Leadership class went on a rappelling trip to the Stone Door led by volunteers Gene Richard, Dennis Jones, and Rhonda Jones. The class enjoyed the natural beauty of the park system while hiking out to the Stone Door. The volunteers were kind in assisting each student and Lusk, as some had their first experience with rappelling. This trip focused on developing teamwork and overcoming fears and most students recognize this trip as one of the most memorable of the year. The class, Richard, and the Jones enjoyed a late lunch at the Mexican restaurant in Altamont.
For their Local Government/ Judicial class, the group visited the Grundy County Courthouse where County Mayor Michael Brady welcomed the students. They visited each county office and were given a short description of the duties officials perform. The judicial portion of the class included mock trial in which the Leadership class played the part of jurors, witnesses, and the defendant.
“The students were very serious about the part that they played in the mock trial. They seemed to put themselves in the position of a real live situation,” stated Gayle VanHooser, coordinator of the event. “There were many individuals that donated precious time to make this mock trial a success. David Shinn, who has served the 12th Judicial District as an Assistant District Attorney since 2008, volunteered his time to serve as representation for the State in the mock trial. Local senior law student, Roger Layne, who is employed at Davis, Kessler and Davis in Winchester, and Will Lockhart, who is a partner at Morrison and Lockhart Law Firm in Tullahoma, served as the defense attorneys in the mock trial. Grundy County General Sessions Judge Trey Anderson volunteered his time to serve as judge.
“Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum allowed his department to participate in the event by staging the mock arrest and booking procedures. The group was allowed to take a brief tour of the jail and the facilities. EMS Director Don Hutcheson sent Meeks to serve as a witness for the state. Afterward, the students were accompanied by Val Sitz DiGianfelice and others for an outstanding lunch at Country Kitchen in Altamont.
“A class like this is a great learning tool. It was actually the brainchild of a former student of Youth Leadership. This student stated that if they could put themselves into the role of a court situation, they would learn more than just being talked to about the consequences of making bad choices. The mock trial has been a successful learning tool for the students,” stated VanHooser.
In March, the Youth Leadership Group teamed up with Adult Leadership and made their annual trek to Nashville. They were treated to a wonderful lunch by State Representative Kevin Dunlap, who also worked very hard to make sure the group got the most from their Day on the Hill experience. The Leadership Groups joined forces with County Mayor Michael Brady and his group of city Mayors, officials, and business leaders to showcase Grundy County. The group made personal visits with legislators and provided them with a video about Grundy County and a delicious Dutch Maid Bakery cookie.
Brady stated that it was a very productive day, as the entire group showed up in a committee meeting to show support of the hotel/motel tax which he is hoping to put into place in Grundy County. This tax would help in taking the tax burden off local landowners, and as Grundy grows and would be collected from visitors who want to come and enjoy our area.
Katie Kite and Erin Thomasson from UT Extension offered a team building/personality class. The duo put together several team building and personality exercises that helped each participant determine their personality profiles and see how each personality fits into a team – whether it be in an office, a relationship, or a game. The group enjoyed lunch catered by Fat Chunks and Dave in Gruetli-Laager.
Shanda Lusk provides a “Reality Check” class that helps with personal and business finance. This class gives students a real life scenario in making health financial choices for their future.
The “Graduation and Celebration” for Youth Leadership students was held at the historic Dutch
Maid Bakery. Family, participants, and Youth and Adult Leadership board members enjoyed the celebration marking the completion of an outstanding year.
“We are so thankful for the cooperation and support of each of the participating individuals, including our teachers and principal. It is amazing that all these very busy people could take time out of their day, to give our students an experience they will not soon forget. We could not have accomplished such an outstanding learning program for these students without the past support from the Myers family, the support of The Community Fund of the South Cumberland Plateau, and all the business and individual contributors,” stated Lusk.
Lusk asks that if you are interested in helping to support this program that you send a check payable to Grundy County Youth Leadership, c/o Jessica Lusk, Grundy County High School, 24970 SR 108, Coalmont TN 37313.