More than 250 middle and high school students learned about making a positive impact in their school and the community Tuesday.
Motivational speaker Logan Weber urged the group to use encouraging language, expect opposition, but never give up on their goals. "It is choosing to use positive words to speak to people in and around your life, that makes a difference," he tells the attentive crowd.
West Monroe ninth-grader Kayla Herrington told her mom she wasn’t sure if she was the right person to be a part of the Ouachita Youth Leadership Summit. "I expected my friend to get in and my mom said not to put myself down. After hearing what he had to say, I don't feel down. I feel like I can do anything," said Herrington.
The session invited applicants from over 20 local schools to participate. The future leaders were reminded of self-awareness, creating good relationships, and finding ways to serve. Herrington has one group in mind she hopes to be a part of during her high school years. "The Civitan Club, where they do a lot of community service," she said.
Fellow freshman Sam Gray feels he can lend support to those struggling with school work. "If people needed help with math, I could help tutor them."
The summit puts a focus on inspiring and instructing students about the value of leadership and volunteering. Speakers share their knowledge about key issues in relationships and substance abuse, as well as health and nutrition.
Children’s Coalition Youth Development Coordinator Jan Daniels says most students have questions when it comes to being an example among their peers. "What children are asking for and what they're needing is leadership skills. They are wanting to learn how to handle certain situations."
The coalition cites the website DoSomething.org in noting 93 percent of youth want to volunteer, but do not know how to begin the process. The students learn about developing a personal action plan for community service.
A balance of service and knowing your individual strengths is an essential part of the process. "I think probably the key point is self-awareness," says speaker Melanie Massey. She wants the students to realize their individual skills and abilities, and how it benefits a group as a whole.
Massey includes a strengths test for students to discover those traits. "Some will really take this to heart today, and go home and be really excited about it. Others might go back to school and encourage their teacher, or club leader, to let others take it and see how they can best use their gifts," she said.
The summit was coordinated to take place in October, which is recognized as Volunteerism Awareness Month.