Lakeside High School junior Kaitlyn McNair watched her older sister go through the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce's Youth Leadership program three years ago and come out with a career path.
One day, during the group's visit to John Deere's Grovetown plant, Kaitlyn's sister met an advertising representative and decided to study public relations in college.
When Kaitlyn, 16, became old enough to apply for the Youth Leadership class, she was excited to participate.
"My sister was in it, and I saw how much she got out of the program," she said.
Started in 1997, the chamber's annual Youth Leadership course introduces high school students to their community, including an insight into the area's political and business circles.
During lunch at the Pinnacle Club, FBI agent Brian Ozden (from left) talks to Sharon McCoy, a sophomore at Greenbrier High, and Kaitlyn McNair, a Lakeside High junior.
Photo by Vicky Eckenrode
Twenty students are in this year's class, and they meet once a month for daylong sessions on different topics.
November's meeting focused on the area's law enforcement and legal systems. The group started the morning touring the Columbia County Sheriff's Office and detention center in Appling and later met judges in Augusta.
Over lunch, they chatted with federal agents, learning more about working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Drug Enforcement Administration.
"I think anytime you can involve them in the community, it's only good," said Mike Lacey, general manager of Augusta Suzuki.
For the first time this year, the chamber secured corporate sponsors for the program including Augusta Lincoln Mercury Suzuki, GWI Industries, Club Car and First Bank of Georgia, which signed on as the title sponsor.
"It allows them to be able to see Columbia County," Chamber Executive Director Gordon Renshaw said about the program's goal for the students. "We're hoping that they see that Columbia County is a place that they can come back to after their education experience and recognize that ti's a wonderful place where they can begin and enjoy a very healthy and strong career."
Chris Baum, a member of the chamber board that organizes the Youth Leadership program, said students between ninth and 12th grades can apply. Applicants are interviewed, and the judges try to select a variety of student representing the entire county.
Baum said this year's class did not include any Harlem High School students because the selected applicants backed out.
Students wanting to apply to the program can ask their school's guidance counselor for a form or call Terra Carroll at the chamber at 651-0018.
Here are this year's members of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce's Youth Leadership class:
- Mark Beckman, Wayne House and Ian Sansot of Augusta Christian Schools.
- Rachael Hamilton, Alicia Jonah, Ryan Kuhar and Parker Odom of Augusta Preparatory Day School.
- Brian Armstrong of Evans High School.
- Katie Franke, Ben Gooding, Rachel Hardin and Sharon McCoy of Greenbrier High School.
- Marvin (Trip) Brown, Ashley Elam, Todd Garcia, Sana Hashmi, Anant Mandawat, Kaitlyn McNair, David Szerlip and Sheila Venkatesh of Lakeside High School.
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