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University holds leadership forum

The Alabama Governor’s Youth Leadership Forum, a week-long event designed for students with disabilities, kicked off Sunday on Troy University’s campus.

The Alabama Governor’s Youth Leadership Forum was introduced in 1999 to Alabama by a Troy University graduate, Angeline Pinkard.

“Each year we have anywhere from 30 to40 students, also known as delegates, from all over the state with disabilities attending the forum,” said John Kline, Troy University employee and co-director of the forum.

The forum attendants will participate in discussions about self-support and how to overcome the challenges of leadership and challenges of having a disability.

“The Forum is a leadership training program for all students with disabilities throughout Alabama,” Kline said. “Many of the activities focus on career planning and leadership development.”

Accompanying the delegates will be 40 volunteers, made up of Troy University students and staff and former Youth Leadership Forum delegates.

In addition, 15 heath professionals, hearing-impaired interpreters and instructors will assist the volunteers.

“There are four CNAs, certified nurses assistance, and one RN, registered nurse,” Kline said. “Combine that with the volunteers and the other health professionals, and we are covered.”

Many of the counselors present were delegates of the forum that have graduated and have come back to help others that are where they once were.

Though some of the delegates are seasoned veterans, there are some first timers learning about what the Youth Leadership Forum had to offer.

Among those were Lindsay Huggins, a Troy University junior from Pike County.

“So far this experience has made me more understanding and aware of others and their disabilities,” Huggins said.

Huggins also said it has made her self-aware, and the program has helped her to understand what exactly a leadership role is.

“The forum has helped me see what I need to do to pursue the career that I want,”

Huggins said. “I want to eventually help children choose their own path, not just ones with disabilities but all children.”

Kline said many of the events have taken place in Troy, on the Troy University campus, and staff and students have helped with anything they could.

“Troy and Troy University have always been very supportive of these events,” Kline said.

Later in the week, the forum’s attendants will travel to the Capitol and meet with Gov. Bob Riley and legislative leaders.

They will then attend a mentor’s luncheon at the Retirement Systems of Alabama’s Activity Center, where they will listen to guest speakers who have overcome many challenges with disabilities.