Youth Leadership Academy Helps Teens Connect with Community Resources, Service Opportunities

Rory Baker, center, and Brianna Berry, right, participants in the Youth Leadership Academy hosted by HPU and the High Point Police Department, prepare lunches to serve at Open Door Ministries.

HIGH POINT, N.C., June 28, 2019 – Twenty-seven teenagers graduated from the Youth Leadership Academy on Thursday with a fresh perspective on leadership and service and greater engagement with the community.

Through the program, hosted for the sixth year by High Point University and the High Point Police Department, the middle and high school students have spent the last two weeks learning from community leaders and getting involved in a variety of activities and projects. Their next step is to put what they have learned into action as they plan for the future.

“We created vision boards about our future life, like what we want to do after high school or what we want to do after college,” said Aaria Trivedi, a junior at Southwest Guilford High School. “Being here has helped me learn to be more responsible and take ownership.”

The students’ days have been filled with guest speakers, leadership and team-building activities and service projects throughout the Triad and beyond. They visited High Point City Hall, the High Point Fire Department, the High Point Police Department, City Lake Park and the Salvation Army. They also spent a day at Hanging Rock State Park and Fort Bragg.

“It’s amazing,” said Hadi Chaudhri, a rising sophomore at Southwest Guilford High School. “I’ve been many places I otherwise wouldn’t have gone. I really liked going to People & Paws 4 Hope and helping out. They pair struggling children up with dogs from the shelter. We’ve learned a lot about leadership and giving back to the community.”

On Monday, students packaged food for Open Door Ministries, a nonprofit that works to prevent and end hunger and homelessness in the city of High Point, and served during lunch.

“I was at the station where we were making sandwiches,” said James Harris, who finished the eighth grade at Allen Jay Preparatory Academy. “It’s important to help people in need. No one’s perfect and everyone has struggles. I might need help in some area one day, so it’s good to give back to someone else.”

Joya Gray, a rising sophomore at Penn-Griffin School for the Arts, said the experience reinforced her interest in serving others, something she is used to doing with her church. She aspires to be a medical artist one day, and she liked learning more about what college is like on the campus of HPU.

“I really enjoyed being a part of this, and I wish I could come back every year,” said Gray. “It puts you a little out of your comfort zone because you meet people and it gets your name out there. When they hear that you went to the Youth Leadership Academy, they know they can count on you and that you’re one of the ones to lead and be the example for others.”

In appreciation for all they learned throughout the program, the students wrote thank-you notes on their last day to the individuals and organizations they visited during the academy.

“Serving has put us in the shoes of other people, and it’s good knowing we can do something nice to help someone else,” said Andrea Martinez-Sanchez, a junior at Penn-Griffin School for the Arts. “I feel like I’ve learned to value others more. It’s easy to focus on ourselves and our own needs, but being able to help other people, it’s fulfilling to see that I can bring happiness to the world.”

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