The graduation ceremony was held immediately after the fourth and final session of the program wherein the young leaders performed service at three local locations: The King’s Kitchen (a ministry of Central Bible Church), Waveland Elementary School, and the Hancock County Animal Shelter. Groups of students folded, hung, and organized the donated clothing at King’s Kitchen, read to first-graders at Waveland Elementary, and cleaned kennels while providing affection to the animals housed at the shelter. 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 Hope Haven Children’s Services, Hancock Resource Center, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Gerard Community Outreach, CASA of Hancock County, Hancock County Human Resource Agency, and Coastal Family Health Center.
“Service learning is such an important aspect of leadership development, especially for this age group who are just beginning to integrate into the fabric of the larger community” said Rhonda Rhodes, President of the Hancock Resource Center, who founded the Hancock Youth Leadership Academy in 2012. 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.
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 2014 program: The First (A National Banking Association), Chuck Benvenutti CPA, Koenig Stainless, Inc., Waveland WalMart, Brehm T. Bell, Southern Printing, Bay Waveland Middle School, Hancock Middle School, Our Lady Academy, St. Stanislaus College Prep, and the HYLA Advisory Board.
The 2014 Junior High HYLA graduating class are pictured from left to right: Front row: Michael Raymond (SSC), Anna Grace Boxx (B/W Middle), Anna Peterson (Hancock Middle), Thomas McArthur (Hancock Middle), Cooper Grafe (Hancock Middle School), Makenzie Mack (Hancock Middle), Gabe Toepfer (SSC), Abby Guy (OLA)
Back Row: Cameron Oberlies (SSC), Jacob Wolfe (B/W Middle), Hannah D’Aunoy (OLA), Harrison Brewer (SSC), Reece Necaise (Hancock Middle), Thomas Weber (SSC), Payton Smith (Hancock Middle), Robert Williams III (B/W Middle), Kimberly Shiyou (Hancock Middle), Tylor Riels (Hancock Middle)