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).