EASLEY — Seasoned chamber of commerce members expressed pleasant surprise Thursday when local high school student described how they had learned leadership through giving.
“If this is an example, we are in pretty good shape with kids like this,” said Terry Garrison. He was describing one Easley High School and two Liberty high School 11th graders who are most of the way through the first Junior Leadership Pickens County program. Members of the Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce at a Thursday luncheon learned about the successes of the first class of students to go through the program.
All three — Abby Smith of Easley and Dolan Holder and Bryce Powell of Liberty — said they had learned to step aside in leadership roles and listen to what others had to say. They also described how they experienced a way of making a difference in there community by helping at Helping Hands of Clemson, a shelter for abused and neglected children.
“I am rarely impressed, but I’m impressed by this,” said Chamber member Don Crews.
The leadership group was developed from one managed by Chamber President Cindy Hopkins when she work for the Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce.
Brian Swords, Dean of the Easley Campus of Tri-County Technical College and a member of the board of coordinating committee for Junior Leadership, said the students requested a change in the program’s curriculum to allow greater understanding of Helping Hands. “They said they knew about the schools. They want to know more about Helping Hands. We had to remake the program,” Swords said.
In the end, he believes it was a valuable experience for the students.
So does Smith, the Easley student. “I am fortunate that I have never had to go through anything like that (services of a shelter), Smith told the chamber members. “I am fortunate that I never had the need This was the first time I had see anyone in a big struggle like that. You know they are in school but you don’t really know about it because they (the sheltered students) don’t talk about it.”
She also saw through the program that problems can have solutions. “We can have an impact if we get together,” she said.
Holder of Liberty High School agreed. “I’ve been blessed to always have a roof over my head at night. I was amazed that I could make a difference simply by going out and listen to some kids.”
Powell, another Liberty High School student, found out that situations exist in Pickens County that he was unaware of. “We can have an impact,” he said.
The students also said they learned value in listening to be leaders. “You can’t have all leaders,” Smith said. “Sometimes you have to step aside and listen to what others have to say and go along with that.” She added with a smile, “Even if you know your way is right.”
“I’ve learned that I don’t always have the right answer, and sometimes I need to step aside.,” Holder said.
The first class includes 25 students chosen from a list of 65 applicants nominated. They went through a written application, group interview and final selection process.
“We weren’t looking for just the 4.0 student,” Swords said. “Academics is not the only thing we were looking for.”