Leadership Program enriches teens in Lawrence County

By Amanda Hanson - bio | email feedback

LAWRENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT)- Back in 1996 Dr. Ralph Joseph had a dream, a dream to develop the leadership skills of the youth in Lawrence County. It was then, he founded the Ralph Joseph Leadership Program enriching the minds of the younger generation.

"It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget," says student Bridget Russell.

Since the fall, Bridget Russell along with a select number of high school students in Lawrence County have been participating in the Ralph Joseph Youth Leadership Program.

"I have learned so much, made life long friends, and have reaped much benefit," says Russell.

Sunday was graduation for class 16. The program is very selective, organizers chose 3 students from each school district in Lawrence County, picked based on their leadership displayed in their school and community, as well as an essay. Students are taught interview skills, etiquette, and networking to help develop the youth for the future. Something Russell says has changed her life.

"Interpersonal communication is a big area of improvement for me. I've always loved to talk, but this has opened me up to meeting the people I need to know for the future," says Russell.

"I still to this day I use the skills I was taught my Junior year of high school," says Program Chairman Veronica Manning. Manning graduated from the of the Leadership program with the 7th graduating class.

"It has taught to have the confident to step outside of my box. It has taught me leadership skills, diversity skills, with work with other individuals once I got into college and gave me the desire to come back to my community and give," says Manning.

And now giving back to these students. A dream Ralph Joseph, who was in attendance, hopes will continue.

"We want students to understand we come from a small community, we come from a small school. We want to give them these leadership skills so they can move off, go to college, get a great education and then come back and be leaders in the community," says Manning.

Students are required to organize a community service project for each of their schools as a way to give back. Since the program originated back in 1996, it's graduated 263 students.