RCS starts youth leadership academy

“Great leaders don’t tell you how to lead; they show you how it’s done,” is a quote that inspires Russellville City Schools career tech director Natalie Bendall and helped spark the idea to develop a Youth Leadership Academy at RHS.

“If we can get our students around key community leaders, then they will see how to lead and be more likely to stay in Russellville and lead our community in the future,” Bendall said.

Bendall said this YLA is an extension of the student advisory committee Superintendent Heath Grimes established when he became superintendent. Twice a year, he meets with the committee of students in sixth through 12th grades, and they discuss their opinions and ideas for the school system.

“I’ve found these meetings to be a great resource for me as a superintendent because our goal is to give our students the best educational experience possible, which includes academics, athletics, extracurriculars and their general well-being and safety,” Grimes said. “It’s good to hear straight from the students’ mouths about what’s going on in our schools and how we can improve or what it is we’re doing well so we can keep it up.”

The YLA will meet four times a year with Grimes to discuss how decisions for the school system are made and act as liaisons between the school system and the student body. Bendall said they are also planning for students to attend at least one city council meeting, Chamber of Commerce meeting, County Commission meeting and school board meeting.

“This will give them exposure to the different types of leadership in our community. They will also participate in CTE on the Hill Day in Montgomery,” Bendall said.

It was at this past February’s CTE on the Hill Day Grimes said they realized the importance of advocating leadership to the students.

“The students were very interested in what we had to say last year, and I believe they saw the need as well,” Grimes said. “Hopefully through intention and quality education, we can produce a future superintendent, board member, mayor, state representative, senator or even a future governor because we see that potential in our students. We just need to nurture that potential in the same way we would nurture academic, athletic or performing arts talent.”

Applications for YLA are due Sept. 14 to Bendall. Interested students must provide an application and résumé and participate in an interview. Any student grades nine through 12 is allowed to apply.

The first YLA cohort will be announced Oct. 1, and the first meeting will be held Oct. 4.

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