Youth Leadership Wilson class graduates with high praise

Jared Felkins • Updated Apr 21, 2018 at 11:00 AM

The 2018 Youth Leadership Wilson class graduated recently, and according to executive director Dorie Mitchell, it was a stellar year filled with some big accomplishments.

Mitchell said the culmination of the work throughout the year came when the class teamed with Walk Across Wilson to add Youth Leadership Wilson’s Hungry for Heroes efforts.

After the event was initially rained out on the first try in March, more than 600 people gathered in early April at College Hills Church of Christ to celebrate fitness and the conclusion of the annual Walk Across Wilson event.   

The Wilson County Health Council and Tennova Healthcare–Lebanon started Walk Across Wilson three years ago to promote health and wellness through education and preventative outreach.

Walk Across Wilson is a four-week walking program. The event is designed to be a unique and fun way to motivate students, employees, church members and county residents to become physically active. Everyone who participated took home tips for healthy habits and giveaway items from the event.

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, Youth Leadership Wilson and other volunteers helped make Saturday’s event successful, according to event organizers.

Hungry for Heroes, the Youth Leadership Wilson project, was on hand to support a canned food drive for Wilson County and Lebanon Special School District students.  The cans collected went toward each district’s backpack program, and was an opportunity for children to meet their favorite characters and learn about what makes them unique heroes.

“Youth Leadership Wilson...Those three words may not have a huge impact on every person who reads them, but they mean so much to the students who have taken part in this program,” said Mary Caroline Minter, a 2018 graduate. “Mrs. Dorie Mitchell does an excellent job of coordinating days for Youth Leadership to come together to experience the opportunities their community has to offer while also having a wonderful time. There are days YLW members serve the community, meet the mayors, shake hands with the governor, tour the local jail, go on scavenger hunts and much more. Every single day spent in Youth Leadership Wilson is new and exciting. After all, the first rule as a member of YLW is to have fun. Mrs. Dorie and all of the people who work with YLW make that an easy rule to follow. So many relationships are built through this program whether they are business-based or just amazing friendships. The joy, kindness and respect shown to each and every person who is a part of the YLW family is truly incredible. I have never been involved with such an overall genuine and optimistic group of leaders before joining up with my Youth Leadership class, and I would not trade this experience for anything.

Leadership Wilson was formed as a program to develop and educate leaders of Wilson County and started its first class in October 1993. The Leadership Wilson program is based upon similar leadership programs located throughout the country in communities both larger and smaller than Wilson County.

As a part of its program, a group project committee in the first class was asked to present its project with regard to some educational aspects of Wilson County. The committee chose a youth leadership pilot program as its project. The committee felt it was consistent with the goals of Leadership Wilson to begin the process of educating and training the youth of the community for leadership roles. The first class of Youth Leadership Wilson was conducted in 1994-95 with a total of 15 students.

“Youth Leadership Wilson has been, without a doubt, one of the greatest experiences I've ever had,” said Isaac Bland, a 2018 graduate. “Aside from having taught me so much, it has helped me become a better person overall. When I was selected for YLW early into the school year, I was quite surprised. I didn't think I had much of a chance of being one of the five people selected out of a school of 2,000 students. Then it happened, and I was very excited to be a part of such a prestigious program. I soon discovered that not only would it help build valuable leadership skills, but it was also going to be a great deal of fun. The experience only grew as we progressed through the year.

“First, we toured every high school, with the people from each school showing everyone else around. In December, we participated in community service, such as ringing bells for the Salvation Army and delivering presents to nursing home patients. We then had a day where we learned about careers and each got to have lunch with a professional from our own chosen career. On local government day, we toured the courthouse and the jail and met with all of Wilson County's mayors. Soon after, we toured the state capitol and met Gov. Bill Haslam. It all culminated when we had a fun-filled day learning about our communities doing things like going on a fast-paced scavenger hunt around Wilson County.

“As I look back, I can honestly say that Youth Leadership Wilson has taught me more and done more for me than any other program I've been a part of. That being said, I want to give a special thank you to Dorie Mitchell, Kathy Haskins and everyone else who helped make this possible.”

In addition to Minter and Bland, who attend Lebanon High School, the 2018 Youth Leadership Wilson graduates included Emmie Dodd, Grayson Hemontolor, Abigail Terry from Friendship Christian School, Sydney Pellerin, Ethan Crowell, Emily Boyd from Lebanon High School, Kayla Thomas, Markie Scott, Mia Snyder, Kirsten Robbins, Kinsley Barga from Mt. Juliet Christian Academy, Chloe Sun, Logan Hemontolor, Dixie Flesher, Coleton Jarvis, Bryson Wright from Mt. Juliet High School, Brandon Allison, Jada Moss, Emerson Kelley, Abby Groce, Ella Cisco from Watertown High School, Barrett Streeter, Sydney Davidson, Emma Brewer, Sarah Beth Barlow and Liam Whitaker from Wilson Central High School.

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