Youth Leadership Forum wraps up

Published 11:02 pm Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Alabama Governor’s Youth Leadership Forum wrapped up a busy and eventful week Thursday, with a graduation luncheon in the Trojan Center at Troy University.

“We had a great forum, this has been an outstanding group,” said John Kline, Director of the Institute for Leadership Development at the university.

Some 80 students and volunteer staff members from across the state converged on campus Sunday for the annual week of youth enrichment.

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“It’s filled with meaningful activities,” Kline said.

The students, or delegates as they are known within the forum, participated in those activities with specific goals in mind.

“We focus on teambuilding, relationship skills, and teaching them how to be advocates for themselves and others with disabilities,” said Kline, who was also the co-chair of the forum.  “One of our goals is to show these young people they can achieve things even with a disability. Some of these students have never been away from home before; this is a great opportunity for them to have new experiences.”

And delegates and staff members alike took full advantage.

When they weren’t at the Troy Sportsplex swimming or at the movies, they were in etiquette class with Troy University First Lady Janice Hawkins or on a tour of the state capitol building in Montgomery.

In perhaps some of the most valuable time spent during the week, the delegates were able to learn from people they could truly relate to.

“They had the opportunity to hear from mentors,” Kline said.

“People who either had disabilities from birth, or injuries later that caused disabilities. That inspired them.”

One such source of encouragement was State Rep. David Grimes R-Montgomery.

A graduate of Troy, Grimes told the forum about his battle with multiple sclerosis. Kline said Grimes explained how a disability can be channeled in a positive direction.

Another Troy alumnus, Donovan Beitel, motivated the delegates at a “Mentors Luncheon”.

Beitel who graduated in 2009 with a degree in risk management and insurance, is legally blind and serves as an instructor in the Business Enterprise Program at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind’s Gentry Instructional Facility.

“He inspired the audience by telling them how much a person who is legally blind can do,” Kline said.

To witness the effectiveness of the Alabama Governor’s Youth Leadership Forum, one only need look at its participants.

Kline said about half of the volunteer staff are former delegates.

Individuals who have excelled and have now assumed a leadership role.

Those leaders were able to spend five solid days helping to make a positive impact on some promising Alabama high school students, many of which hope to soon fill their shoes and do the same.