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Ava High School students Seth Evans and Hannah Johnson, and Bakersfield High School students Chelsea Johnston and Chase Sigler, have been selected to participate in the first class of the South-Central Student Leadership Initiative, designed to develop skills to create future community leaders for the Ozarks region.
The students from Ava and Bakersfield are among 18 from nine south-central Ozarks schools participating in this pilot project of the Rural Schools Partnership an initiative of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.
Seth attended the first session of the program on May 20 at Missouri State University-West Plains, which is partnering on the program with the RSP, the MSU Rural Education Center and the Thomasville Place-Based Learning Collective. Hannah was unable to attend the first session.
The students were welcomed by CFO Chairman David Pointer of Gainesville and Rural Education Center Director Dr. Don Hamby, who explained that they were selected by their schools because they show leadership qualities. The students will have opportunities to learn from both adults and peers through activities that emphasize the RSP’s mission of place-based education that connects rural schools and their communities.
The keynote speaker for the first session was Dr. Colin Collins, a biochemist and entrepreneur who lives on Bryant Creek. He urged the students to “always take the hard road” to develop credentials that will give them the greatest number of options for what may be several career changes during their lives. He also encouraged them to build relationships like the ones they will develop with the people they’ll meet during the Student Leadership Initiative.
“As we sit here as stewards of the Ozarks, and you guys are the next generation of that, you’ve got to keep in mind that we have something very, very special here,” Dr. Collins said. “The world is changing very rapidly. How it changes will be a direct reflection of your leadership. I hope you come back here to help lead it.”
Speakers for the first session also included Dr. Chris Dyer, Academic Dean at MSU-WP, who encouraged students to fully participate in the college experience, and Drs. Nancy Lawler and Theresa Nash, of Ava, who worked interactively with the students on developing leadership attributes.
The next session for the students will be a two-day visit in August to the Dixon Heritage Leadership Camp.
Chelsea is the daughter of Randy and Linda Johnston and Chase is the son of Mike and Tracey Zimmer.