By the end of the kickoff, students from Murray and Hopkinsville were trading jokes and stories about their schoolmates and sports teams. What started as a quiet room of strangers finished as a chatty group of parents, students and community members bound together by their participation in a new program. The first year of Murray State University’s Regional Youth Leadership (RYL) Program is underway and the kickoff was a success.
Sixteen students representing 10 different counties came with a parent to the Curris Center small ballroom for the weekend training event. It began with thanks and a welcome from Gina Winchester, executive director of the office of regional outreach. Carmen Garland, retired MSU employee and RYL program coordinator, led icebreaker games so students could get to know one another and explore their interests. Students and parents brainstormed what qualities they would want in teammates. As part of the Regional Youth Leadership Academy, the pair of leaders from each county can select up to three other teammates to assist them in their major project.
The project is coordinated through an international initiative called Project Citizen. Glenn Manns, Kentucky State director for Project Citizen and We The People, drove in to train students and their parents on the program. Bringing newspapers from near and far, Manns led an activity in which parents and students analyzed a public policy news story and decided if it was effective or not. Each team will choose an issue to change in their respective communities, research possible changes and propose public policy to make that change. In the past, students have changed city council policy and even Kentucky State statutes. The sky is the limit, Manns said.
Garland along with Rebecca Feldhaus, coordinator of regional outreach, complete visits in the upcoming weeks to discuss teammate assignments and project topics with students. Throughout the year students take fieldtrips in the region. Each fieldtrip is specifically tailored to each RYL cohort, based on the interests they’ve shown in picking their project topic. They’ll return to campus next summer to present their projects and compete for prizes.
Up to two students were chosen from each of the school districts that applied for the first year of the program. RYL is a leadership-driven program for 8th-graders in its first year of operation. A full list of participants is below.
RYL Cohort 2013-14 (By County)
Ballard County: Katie Clark
Carlisle County: Macy Gruber
Christian County and University Heights Academy: Ka-Tyvin Anthony and Damon Key
Fulton County: Leslie Jackson and Kelly Etheridge
Hickman County: Emmy Cloar and Jasmyn Rushing
Hopkins County: Logan Larkins
Lyon County: Gabby Gray and Minahil Khan
Murray Independent (Calloway County): John Seargent and Mallory Stone
Paducah Independent (McCracken County): Cody Tynes and Kate Story
Union County: Tarah Nally