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Southeast Alabama business leaders mentor students at Power of Youth Leadership Forum

High school students from Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry and Houston Counties gathered in Ozark last week for the 2021 Power of Youth Leadership Forum, an event designed to enhance their leadership and networking skills through mentoring by local business leaders.

Alabama Power Community Relations Manager David Norwood kicked off the event by telling the 150 students about their value for helping shape the future success of the region.

“It’s important for our community to invest in you because you are the future of the Wiregrass,” he said. “As a student selected as a youth leader in your county, today is about helping you build relationships with business leaders and each other that you can use in shaping your career.”

After a welcome from Ozark Mayor Mark Blankenship, students headed to breakout sessions tackling topics such as economic development with representatives from the Alabama Department of Commerce, speed networking with staff from Southeast Alabama Works and social media with experts from Alabama-based Sphere Media Marketing.

Brenda Tuck, rural development manager for the state Commerce Department, led students through an activity challenging them to develop a proposal for a community project and make a presentation on why the project should receive funding.

“Our goal is to teach you how to market ideas that will make the Wiregrass an even better place to live, work and play,” Tuck said.

The Wiregrass Resource Conservation and Development Council shared information on Rise Wiregrass, a competition for students to share their ideas on a service, invention, business or event that would make a positive impact in the region. The competition opens Jan. 1. More information can be found at www.wiregrassrcd.education/wiregrass-rise.

Speed networking bingo was led by Katie Thomas with Southeast Alabama Works. Students were instructed to have conversations to learn more about each other and identify someone who matches a characteristic on the card. The game allowed students to recognize the diverse experiences of others and how the experiences can enhance relationships.

In a social media session led by Adrienne Wilkins with Sphere Media, students learned how to be responsible with platforms while also using them to their advantage for their college and career opportunities.

The forum wrapped up with keynote speaker Wanda Battle, a Montgomery-area songstress, voice-over artist, speaker and tour guide for her company, Legendary Tours.

“Today, you’ve already heard about topics I plan to discuss, but I’m going to cover them in a different way,” she said.

Using her immense passion for human and civil rights and social justice, Battle sang with the students, shared heartache and success stories and talked about servant leadership. She received a standing ovation.

In closing, Battle said, “My advice to you is, respect and appreciate differences and you will be a successful leader. Be love and be light.”

Forum sponsors included Alabama Powerthe city of Ozark, the Dothan Area Chamber of CommerceOzark Area Chamber of CommercePea River Electric CooperativeWiregrass Electric Cooperative and Wiregrass RC&D Council. Forum hosts included included the Alabama Department of Commerce, Southeast Alabama Works and Sphere Media Marketing.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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