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Sarah Weaver gained skills in résumé writing, interviewing for jobs and leadership before she graduated in June from Columbus East High School.
She learned those lessons while participating in Youth Leadership Bartholomew County, a 12-year-old program of the Columbus Service League that fosters growth of the county’s future leaders by rewarding academic accomplishments and encouraging academic discipline.
Weaver, a freshman at Indiana University who is pursuing a degree in special education, said the experience was valuable and will come in handy when she graduates from college and moves into the workforce.
A year has passed since Weaver finished in second place and won $1,000 at the annual Leadership Conference and Awards Ceremony for proving herself as one of the county’s best. Now, a new group of 192 high school seniors with at least a B-plus GPA are ready to be recognized for their accomplishments at this year’s version of that invitation-only ceremony Monday at the Clarion Hotel in Columbus.
The day will start at 8 a.m. and consist of presentations by community leaders, lunch sponsored by Columbus Rotary, a keynote speech by an Indiana University professor, and a full slate of activities intended to instruct and inspire the future leaders, according to Varsi Weeter, a Youth Leadership committee member.
She said cash awards ranging from $100 to $1,500 — made possible through sponsor donations — will go to 20 students judged to have performed the best on skill-building activities that started in February when the students were juniors.
The nearly 200 who chose to participate had to submit a resume, write a 250-word essay about leadership and undergo a personal interview for a make-believe job. All of the essays were judged by community volunteers and returned to students with suggestions.
Students won’t know whether they will get a piece of the $9,000 until the day of the conference, Veeter said. Cash awards, raised through community donations, exceed last year’s $6,700.
Weeter said donors and volunteers are the lifeblood of the program. Some individuals and businesses from the
community donate money, while others provide in-kind services or serve as project judges.
But the common denominator is that the program puts today’s youth in contact with today’s community leaders, giving students a chance to learn and giving leaders a chance to give back to their community.
Columbus Service League’s goal is to grow each year by spreading word about the value of Youth Leadership Bartholomew County, Weeter said. She said she hopes that will persuade more people to donate money so cash awards can continue to increase, and that the conference and awards ceremony can be improved.
Tammy Freeland, a homemaker and a three-year committee member who has served on some interview panels in recent years, said her involvement is rooted in her belief that Youth Leadership Bartholomew County is a great way to reach a large body of high-achieving young people who aren’t necessarily the Top 10 performing students in their class.
She said she likes that cash awards are based on academic merit.
Patty Hannasch, who worked for 20 years with Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, has helped grade résumés and conduct student interviews. She said she supports the program because it helps student participants on many levels.
“These kids are getting their eyes opened,” she said. “It’s a chance for good, honest feedback from someone other than mom and dad who is immensely qualified.”
Weaver said seeing so many community leaders in one room, in addition to so many students who might take the reigns someday, was something that no amount of money could buy.
But Weaver did appreciate the money.
She said the $1,000 cash prize, combined with her other scholarships that totaled about $5,000, helped offset the costs of college, which can be upward of $26,000 a school year.
“Every bit helps,” she said.
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