Columbus North senior Emma Wilson is busy focusing on her future goals, specifically preparing for college and deciding which of seven higher learning institutions to attend.

With the help of Youth Leadership Bartholomew County (YLBC), Wilson found the boost she — and a select group of other seniors — needed to take the step from high school to college.

Wilson and other area seniors gained experience above the normal high school curriculum requirements in skills such as communication, college applications and résumé writing thanks to the YLBC program — and a lot of personal hard work.

“This program was a massive help in preparation for my college career and into the working world afterward — specifically the YLBC interview,” Wilson said.

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Through YLBC, the students not only got the opportunity to build leadership skills and receive awards for exceptional work in school and the program, but they earned a day out of the classroom in September to celebrate those accomplishments and prepare for their futures.

The real work was in qualifying, completing the assignments that are part of the program and learning how to apply those skills to future endeavors. To qualify for YLBC, students must be juniors and have at least a GPA of 9.0 on a 12.0 scale , according to YLBC co-chair Candi Hester. Students who participate sign a letter of intent and submit a packet to counselors that contains an essay, a résumé and brief biography. In the fall of their senior year, students complete a professional interview with a community member, Hester said.

Casey Weisner, a senior at Columbus East and YLBC participant, said working to get into the program was what counted most. The program is a unique method of preparing students for the real world.

“It is a unique and educational way of equipping and congratulating students who stand out in our community,” Hester said. “Students that participate can add the program to their awards and notable sheets that they submit to college and colleges find it a significant notable.”

With this goal in mind, the essays are graded by Ivy Tech Community College Columbus and returned to students to aid in college application essay writing. The interviews offer a formal setting to test students’ skills, and receive feedback and composite scores. The resume made students focus on an important aspect in the job sphere that most students don’t look at until much later.

“Piecing together a résumé was also helpful,” Wilson said. “It forced me to start thinking about that pretty early.”

The culminating event was a professional development workshop Sept. 19 at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center in Columbus, said Robyn Spoon, Global Achievement Center’s founder and one of the workshop’s developers. It gave students a chance to learn skills such as leading dynamically, communicating effectively and identifying their personal strengths and motivators.

Students were divided into groups based upon the field they hope to go into after graduation, Hester said. Among those professionals at the event were lawyers, nurses, teachers, designers, policemen and engineers.

The process is a highly personal one for each student, Spoon said, with the goal being for them to find their personal strengths to help them succeed in a professional setting.

Everyone receives a participation certificate, memory book and their essay and interview notes. Outstanding students of the program walk away with more than these items and the knowledge they have acquired, as they earn monetary awards.

Wilson received the highest award given, the platinum award of $1,500. She plans to attend college to major in business but is still deciding which school to attend. She has been offered scholarships Butler University, Xavier University and Indiana University with a direct admission into the Kelley School of Business, but it is still waiting to hear about academic scholarships from schools such as Clemson University and Miami University in Ohio.

Weisner said the $1,000 gold award she earned will go toward college. She intends to attend Ball State University — where she earned a $24,000 scholarship — and double major in elementary and childhood education. She was grateful for the program and its lessons in leadership.

“If I want to be a leader in life, I need to step up,” Weisner said. “And YLBC gave me the confidence to be (a leader).”

About Youth LBC

Youth Leadership Bartholomew County is a program designed to recognize students who are doing outstanding work in school and the community. It helps participants hone the skills they will need in college and their careers.

To be eligible, students must:

  • Have at least a 9.0 GPA
  • Be a junior (the program lasts into their senior year)

For more information, visit: bartholomewcountyyouthleadership.com.

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Kaitlyn Evener is an editorial assistant for The Republic. She can be reached at kevener@therepublic.com or 812-379-5633.