The Hancock Youth Leadership Academy (HYLA) held a graduation ceremony for its fifth class of junior high students on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at St. Clare’s Community Center. The graduation was the culmination of a program that began in January. Twenty-two bright young students displaying strong leadership potential from all four area middle schools were chosen through a rigorous selection process to participate in the program. Over the course of the last few months, HYLA students engaged in a series of sessions that developed and strengthened their self-awareness and leadership styles, exposed them to local government and county and municipal administration to promote civic engagement, increased their awareness of the importance of small business and industry to the health of the community, and demonstrated the role of the arts in sustaining a community’s culture.
The graduation ceremony was held immediately after the final session of the program. To start the day, the young leaders completed service projects that they planned. One project included a pet supply drive for the Hancock County Animal Shelter. The students presented the goods collected to the shelter and then helped clean kennels while providing affection to the animals housed at the shelter. Another group of students travelled to Buccaneer State Park and cleaned the “Pirate’s Alley” nature trail. The students picked up trash, trimmed bushes, and moved fallen branches from the trail. The third group of students made blankets and delivered them to senior citizens at Dunbar Nursing Home. There, the visited with the residents and participated in exercise activities with them.
Also during this session, the students learned first-hand what services and resources were available in the community by meeting with agency representatives of local non-profits such as the Hancock Resource Center, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Gerard Community Outreach, Hancock County Food Pantry, The WIN Job Center, and Coastal Family Health Center. These middle-schoolers not only performed service in the community, but learned the value of that service by engaging with the agencies to understand the complex situations faced by the many families who interact with the social service system. This session’s activities provided the springboard to launch the students from the program, as they are now set to enter high school as young leaders with cultural sensitivity and a firm understanding of their community’s assets and resources.
“It has been such an honor to share this part of their journey in becoming our county’s leaders of tomorrow. Service is such an important aspect of leadership development and I could not be more pleased that they took their projects so seriously,” said Rhonda Rhodes, President of the Hancock Resource Center, who founded the Hancock Youth Leadership Academy in 2012.
The Hancock Youth Leadership Academy is the first county-wide youth leadership program in Hancock County. HYLA extends sincere appreciation to the generous sponsors of the 2016 program Alexander, Van Loon, Sloan, Levens & Favre, Susan Williams Allen, Friends of David Baria, Charles B. Benvenutti, CPA PA, Brehm Bell, Bell Electric, James J. Chiniche, P.A. Inc., Compton Engineering/Mickey Lagasse, JP Compretta, Diamondhead Dental Clinic, Dubuisson Properties, LLC, Edmond Fahey Funeral Home, Hancock Bank, Leslie and Mark Henderson, A friend of HYLA, Hope Haven Children’s Services, Keesler FCU, The First, A National Banking Association, Silver Slipper Casino, Southern Printing & Silkscreening, South Group Insurance, Triton Systems, Inc., Harrison Williams, Henry Winters, RPM Pizza LLC – Domino’s, Waveland Walmart, Bay Waveland Middle School, Hancock Middle School, Our Lady Academy, and Saint Stanislaus College Prep.
Picture: Joshua Cothen (B/W Middle), Sebastian Fausett (Hancock Middle), Alexa Hardie (Hancock Middle), Rose Khadaroo (Hancock Middle), Sophia Compretta (OLA), Brooke Rogers (OLA), Macie Firchau (Hancock Middle), Tommy Gilbert (Hancock Middle), Kyle Capo (St. Stanislaus), Drew West (St. Stanislaus), Parker Quandt (St. Stanislaus), Olivia Dosda (Hancock Middle), Samantha Broussard (OLA), Sidney Henry (B/W Middle), Amelia Haynes (B/W Middle), Hayden Matheson (OLA), Emily Perniciaro (OLA), Isabella Clogher (OLA), Camille Schafer (OLA), Landon Ladner (Hancock Middle), Easton Logan (St. Stanislaus), and Riley Welsh (Hancock Middle).
The Hancock Youth Leadership Academy (HYLA) High School Program Class of 2016 spent their most recent session learning about local governments in the area. They visited with elected officials of Hancock County and its three municipalities and learned important lessons regarding congressional politics.
The 2016 HYLA High School Class is comprised of 29 eleventh graders from Hancock County who represent all four area high schools. On Wednesday, May 4th, the high school leaders embarked on their fifth session, sponsored by Compton Engineering, by meeting City and County officials in the new Annex Building. The students interacted here with Chancery Clerk Tim Kellar, Mayors Les Fillingame (Bay St. Louis), Mike Smith (Waveland), Thomas Schafer (Diamondhead) and Supervisor Blaine Lafontaine. The students submitted questions in advance which the mayors and supervisors addressed and also took questions from the floor. These young leaders learned about the intricacies of local government directly from city and county leaders.
Next on the agenda was a visit with Retired (US Airforce) Master Sergeant David Motz and Retired (US Airforce) Major Dick Brown who gave a moving presentation about their years of military service to our country. They both impressed upon the young leaders the necessity of service both locally in their community and nationally.
HYLA students were then immersed in an active learning process conducted by Tyson Elbert, research associate at the John C. Stennis Institute of Government and Community Development at Mississippi State University. Mr. Elbert engaged the young leaders in a simulation of the congressional election process. By using this simulation, the students gained a solid understanding of how congressional elections are conducted and of what determines who wins and loses these contests. By "playing along" with the election, they learned to choose among different strategic options for the campaigns, affording them the opportunity to understand the complexities of the election process and how decisions made throughout the course of the term ultimately affect the next election’s outcome. At the end of the process, students anxiously awaited election results to find out if their candidate would be heading back to Washington or remaining in their home district.
After visiting the Mississippi State Capitol in February, HYLA students further enhanced their knowledge this session of how government works on the local, state, and national levels and increased their understanding of how the political process affects decision making in the various contexts.
The Hancock Youth Leadership Academy is the first and only county-wide youth leadership program in Hancock County, and is a program of The Hancock Resource Center. Moving forward, local community sponsorships are needed. Please consider sponsoring a session or making a general donation to support the ongoing operation of the Hancock Youth Leadership Academy. Invest in Hancock County’s future by cultivating its next generation of leaders: visit www.hancockhrc.org or call 228-463-8887 to learn how.
Picture -- Back Row (left to right): Cody Peranich (SSC), Corbin Blanchard (SSC), Tim Papania (Hancock), Seth Taylor (SSC), Bradley Lewis (Hancock), Drew Burnett (SSC), Andrew Elkins (SSC).
Middle Row: Jill Seymour (Bay High), Kloe Lloyd (OLA), Morgan Lacoste (Hancock), Minerva Alonso (Bay High), Katie Ladner (Hancock), Jordan Ladner (Hancock), Adara Rutherford (Hancock), Brooke Rasco (Hancock), Aidia Suter (Bay High), Claire Lundgren (OLA), Cooper Compretta (Bay High), Tarah Necaise (Bay High), Elora Pierce (Bay High), Dimetri Lyons (Bay High).
Front Row: Abby Ladner (OLA), Ariana Rusher (Hancock), Haley Akers (Hancock), Marie Konopacki (Hancock), Amy Keith (Hancock), Talia Jackson (Bay High), Jasmine Martin (Hancock) and Brooke Ladner (Hancock)
Seated: Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame, Hancock County Chancery Clerk Tim Kellar, Hancock County Supervisor Blaine Lafontaine, and Waveland Mayor Mike Smith.