Army Lt. Col. T.M. Weisz says he knew in high school what he'd spend his life doing.
"For me, it was a no-brainer," said Weisz, who followed his father and grandfather into a military career.
It turns out that Weisz is the exception, not the rule.
A majority of community leaders who shared their career experiences with a Columbia County Chamber of Commerce Youth Leadership class Thursday said they are not pursuing the dreams they had as a teen.
Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver said he wanted to be a writer in high school.
"I had no interest in running for political office," Copenhaver said.
Nearly 15 community leaders spoke with the group of nearly 25 Youth Leadership students, who are Columbia County high school juniors and seniors.
Each leader was asked the same three questions: what they saw themselves doing in high school, are they doing it now and what they see themselves doing in the future.
"Because what they find out is that a lot of these guys (community leaders) have had two or three different careers," said John T.Y. Smith, a co-chairman of the chamber's Youth Leadership Committee.
The Youth Leadership program, which began in the late 1990s, was formed to help identify and develop future community leaders through programs that acquaint them with community issues, needs, resources and leaders.
"It is real interesting," said Jill Tankersley, a 17-year-old Evans High School junior after hearing the leaders' stories and interacting with them during lunch.
The Youth Leadership program lasts the entire school year and includes days focused on media and community service, business and industry, health care, law enforcement, government, education, arts, culture and diversity.
Thursday's Business and Industry Day included speakers on ethics and finances and a trip to the Georgia Iron Works plant in Grovetown.
"Our goal is for them to learn about their community and the opportunities for service that are there," Smith said. "Our hope is that they will return to Columbia County and work in Columbia County. But if they don't, they'll at least take that to where they live, to where their career takes them, and give back to that community."
Pam Tucker, Columbia County's emergency services division director, said she never anticipated a career in civil defense.
Being happy and successful comes from choosing a career focusing in what you love, Tucker said.
Carolyn Tynan, a former chairwoman of the chamber committee, said the day's gathering was about teaching future leaders to chase their passion, not dollars, when choosing a career.
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