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Seven local middle schools encourage student leadership through AYLA

AYLA, the Alamance Youth Leadership Academy, is a collaborative leadership program supported by the Alamance Chamber of Commerce, the Alamance-Burlington School System and Elon University.

This year's AYLA program was a huge success, with 63 middle school students participating.

What began in early 2000 as a partnership with Turrentine Middle School designed to empower local youth to emerge as leaders in their school communities has transformed over the years into a multi-dimensional workshop promoting student leadership, civic engagement, diversity awareness and team building.

Last Sunday, more than 60 rising seventh graders from local middle schools arrived on Elon’s campus to embark on a two-year school improvement project through their school’s AYLA chapter. Turrentine, Graham, Hawfields, Woodlawn, Southern Alamance, Clover Garden and Blessed Sacrament sent delegations to Elon’s summer workshop. Over the course of four days, participants worked with their classmates and Elon student facilitators to begin brainstorming ideas and strategies to improve areas of their school to further benefit the student body, including school beautification, peer involvement and inclusion, technology advancements and academic enhancement. These developing ideas will be sent to the respective principals for further evaluation and approval as the students begin to work in depth on the project this coming fall.

In addition to working on their school projects, the summer program is an opportunity for students to develop necessary life skills such as public speaking, teamwork, asking important questions and searching for and utilizing available resources. Presenters from the Center for Leadership, the Kernodle Center and the Multicultural Center served as mentors and guides for students as they discussed and discovered their circle of influence in their school community.

AYLA ended on Wednesday with students presenting their top three ideas to other schools’ delegations, parents, teachers, administrators and other community members. Barbara Massey from the Alamance Chamber of Commerce, as well as Elon’s Rex Waters and Jeff Stein spoke to students about what it means to be one of today’s leaders. While creating measurable change will certainly present its obstacles, students were inspired by Stein’s comparison to Elon’s own Phoenix rising from the ashes of the 1923 fire. “It’s what you do after the fire that counts.”

The Elon and Alamance County community are excited to support these students as they grow as leaders, confident and aware of their own strengths and abilities.  

Dana Pursley,
6/21/2013 10:55 AM