For Immediate Release:
July 30, 2020
The Hancock Youth Leadership Academy (HYLA) held its final session and graduated its ninth class of junior high students on Wednesday, July, 22nd at the Longfellow Civic Center. The final session and graduation was sponsored by Keesler Federal Credit Union and was the culmination of a program that began in January and was temporarily suspended due to COVID-19. Twenty-two bright young students displaying strong leadership potential from all four area middle schools were chosen to participate in the program. Over the course of the last five 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.
HYLA students began the day at the Bay St. Louis Train Depot and the Mardi Gras Museum where costumes from the Krewe of Nereids are displayed. Mary Ann Pucheu, a current Officer of the Krewe, was on hand to explain the history behind the organization and the impact that it has on the local economy.
Next, the students took a walking tour of the Depot District which ended at Ruth’s Roots, the community garden, created by former Youth Court Judge Elise Deano. The garden was created to help serve the community’s youth through enrichment, but is now truly a community treasure. Local artists have made the garden quite vibrant with painted murals and fence posts. Students were surprised to see chickens, rabbits and flowers, plants and herbs being grown in raised “salad tables”. The garden also is home to two hives of honeybees, a butterfly habitat, two worm farms, as well as a Koi pond. Students were then treated to a delicious lunch at Purple Banana.
Students then participated in several activities which 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 2020 program: Accelerated Physical Therapy, AVL, (Alexander, Van Loon, Sloan, Levens & Favre), Brehm Bell, Attorney at Law, James J. Chiniche, P.A., JP Compretta, DAK Americas, Diamondhead Dental Clinic, Edmond Fahey Funeral Home, Bert Keel, Jr. DMD, Hancock County Chamber of Commerce, HL Raymond Properties, JEM, LLC, Keesler Federal Credit Union, Mike Meyers (State Farm Agent), John McDonald Realty, Representative Jay McKnight, Mississippi Power Assoc., The Mystic Krewe of the Seahorse, Pet Haven Veterinary Hospital, Celeste and Robert Rosamond Family Foundation, Silver Slipper Casino, Southgroup Insurance Services, Southern Printing & Silkscreening, Dean and Marilene Taylor, Tellus Self Storage, Chris and Becky Trapani, Triton Systems, Inc, Waveland Walmart, Bay Waveland Middle School, Hancock Middle School, Our Lady Academy, and Saint Stanislaus.
Picture: front row: (left to right) Brennan Acosta (B/W Middle), Amelia Loper (Hancock Middle), Cadence Lyrock (B/W Middle), Leah Acosta (B/W Middle), Faith Ponte (OLA), Hannah Lagasse (B/W Middle), Katie Favre (OLA), Mallory Capo (OLA), Parker Saucier (St. Stanislaus).
Back row: Alex Ladner (Hancock Middle), Jeffrey Hopgood (Hancock Middle), Mia Martial (Hancock), Brooklen Bourgeois (OLA), Kiara Johnson (B/W Middle), William Ascherl (St. Stanislaus).
Not pictured: Nathan Andrews (Hancock Middle), Cole Bryant (St. Stanislaus), Jackson Grimes (Hancock Middle), Kody Grob (Hancock Middle), Halee Oster (Hancock Middle), Amelia Power (B/W Middle).
For more information, please contact Rhonda Rhodes at 228-463-8887.