You’re never too young to make a difference.
That was the theme of this year’s Alabama Power Youth Leadership Conference, which encouraged high school juniors from East and West Alabama schools to give some thought to their next chapter in life.
The half-day event was held virtually for the second straight year, with more than 2,000 students and teachers tuning into last week’s livestream program. The event featured a panel on career planning with speakers from a variety of professional backgrounds representing organizations such as Jacksonville State University, the University of Alabama, Anniston Career Center, Heiche US Surface Technologies and Bridgewater Interiors. In addition, students had an opportunity to hear from one of Alabama’s most successful entrepreneurs, John Cassimus. Cassimus encouraged the students to step outside their comfort zones and be willing to do work that others are not willing to do.
“It is a privilege to present the Youth Leadership Conference to students in East Alabama,” said Terry Smiley, Alabama Power Eastern Division vice president. “Exposing our young people to leaders from across the region who can share information to better prepare them for their career path is important to their overall success.”
“For West Alabama, this is our 20th year hosting the Youth Leadership Conference. Each year, we look forward to reaching high school students in our area as they get ready for a pivotal time in their life,” said Mark Crews, Alabama Power Western Division vice president. “We hope that these students are motivated by our speakers, realize the endless opportunities they have in their hometowns and are inspired to commit positive change.”
Showing the students that you’re truly never too young to change the world, the event included a panel discussion on youth activism and volunteerism. Panelists included Talladega’s first Black mayor, Tim Ragland, who was elected at the age of 29, and Hamilton City Councilman Ross Reed, who was 18 when he was elected.
Students were also given tips on financial planning by representatives from Regions Bank and Super Money Kids.
Kaleigh Barrett, a junior at West Blocton High School, said Courtney Hale of Super Money Kids gave the best advice of the day. “He talked about how to manage and save your money while going to college and different options on how to prepare for college. I will definitely use his advice in the future,” Barrett said.
The event concluded with a keynote address by Brittany Wagner, a nationally respected academic counselor and motivational speaker best known for her appearances in the hit Netflix documentary series, Last Chance U. Wagner challenged the students to “look up, speak up and show up” for themselves – and for others in their lives, too.
“We are a product of our experiences. But you can be anything you want to be if you’re willing to work for it,” Wagner said.
“My students received wonderful information during the conference,” said Beth Hypes, teacher at Oneonta High School. “We especially enjoyed the leadership session, but most importantly my students enjoyed Ms. Wagner’s message. Her message is one I will use with my students for years to come.”
Read about last year’s Youth Leadership Conference here.