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Today is May 9, 2021

Youth students continue to lead in challenging times

By Elissa Fulton

Youth students continue to lead in challenging times

For 34 years, Mississippi’s electric cooperatives have been supporting young students through the Youth Leadership Program. This program includes a year-long selection process at local cooperatives to select the participants for a leadership workshop in Jackson in February, and a week-long tour of Washington, D.C. in June each year.

The program is supported locally by electric cooperatives, statewide through the Electric Cooperatives of Mississippi and nationally through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. Since the 1960s, the program has inspired leadership qualities, introduced first-hand knowledge of state and national politics and encouraged relationships that many of these students will foster throughout their lives.

The students are selected based upon their academic achievements, participating in student organizations and volunteerism in their schools, churches and communities and participation in local cooperative activities and/or interviews.

Mississippi’s students are recognized each year in Today in Mississippi in the April issue following the workshop in Jackson, and again in the August issue after the summer tour, where they appear on the cover of the magazine.

“Our 2020 students possess the qualities that define great leadership and have a vision for the future,” said Ron Stewart, ECM senior vice president. “They are energetic young people who lead by example and are willing to step forward to make a difference, even while facing difficult challenges. They are problem solvers and, with great enthusiasm, are dedicated to working together to achieve success.”

There were 87 students from the Class of 2020 who participated in the annual Youth Leadership Workshop in Jackson Feb. 27 – March 1, 2020. They participated in team-building exercises, heard speeches from motivational speakers and public officials and had a photo session and breakfast with their state legislators before touring the Mississippi State Capitol. Along with legislators, Gov. Tate Reeves, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Secretary of State Michael Watson all attended the workshop and encouraged these students to follow their dreams.

Unfortunately, as with many other events this past year, the 2020 Youth Tour of Washington, D.C., was canceled. When the global coronavirus pandemic began, our cooperative advisors felt certain we would be able to continue with a local program later in the year. As the COVID-19 virus showed no signs of slowing down, a decision was made to cancel the remaining 2020 activities. The safety of the students has and will always be a priority.

The organizers of this program have worked tirelessly to offer a comparable solution for these students by providing scholarships. Though we believe scholarships can in no way replace the opportunity of seeing our nation’s capital, experiencing politics firsthand and making lifelong relationships, the CEOs, board directors and program directors of the participating cooperatives hope that this scholarship will aid in these student’s future educational goals.

The classes of 2020 and 2021 have undergone many disappointments as their senior years have been disrupted by this global crisis. The resiliency that we have seen in these students has been both remarkable and encouraging. They have found ways to connect with each other safely, to continue with their studies and to follow rules set in place by leading officials. All of these qualities have shown an insurmountable desire to succeed. These students have overcome much in this past year and been challenged in ways that few have in the past. We are excited to see what their futures will hold.


Curry Black receives scholarships

Curry Black, representing East Mississippi Electric Power Association, was selected as the 2020 Youth Leadership Council (YLC) member. He is the son of Lori and Stefan Black of Louisville and attends Winston Academy. As a YLC student, Curry was awarded the $1,000 Youth Leadership Award and scholarship, as well as additional scholarships from EMEPA and ECM.

Black’s future goals are to attend law school, become involved in politics and eventually become President of the United States. We congratulate Black on his accomplishments!

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