Thirty high school students from across Georgia are developing leadership skills and building knowledge about the state through a statewide youth leadership program at the University of Georgia. The 10th and 11th graders from 29 counties, selected from more than 300 nominations, are participating in Youth LEAD Georgia.

A partnership among UGA’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, Chick-fil-A Inc. and The Same House organization, Youth LEAD Georgia is designed to equip youth with the skills and knowledge necessary to be the future leaders of the state.

In all, Youth LEAD Georgia will consist of four weekend retreats held in different communities across the state and a four-day summer bus tour.

A generous $1.5 million pledge from Chick-fil-A to the Fanning Institute is providing financial support for the weekend retreats, bus tour and an annual youth leadership summit that will take place beginning in 2024. Thanks to the support from Chick-fil-A, Youth LEAD Georgia is available at no cost to participants.

The program held its opening retreat Jan. 20-22 at UGA, where participants had an opportunity to meet with UGA President Jere W. Morehead, who shared his thoughts on leadership and noted the importance of leadership development to Georgia.

“Leadership is a lifelong calling,” Morehead said. “Though you might be at the start of your journey now, we need young people such as yourselves to step into important roles and learn to become problem solvers. At every level, from your local community to our state, nation and beyond, the future will be determined by individuals and organizations with creative solutions to our toughest problems.”

Youth LEAD Georgia class of 2024 meets with UGA President Jere W. Morehead at the opening session at UGA on Jan. 22.

The program held its opening retreat Jan. 20-22 at UGA, where participants had an opportunity to meet with UGA President Jere W. Morehead, who shared his thoughts on leadership and noted the importance of leadership development to Georgia. (Photo credit: Catherine Elrod/UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development)

Rodney Bullard, CEO of The Same House, fellow Georgia business leader Fred Hicks and faculty at UGA’s Fanning Institute collaboratively designed the concept of Youth LEAD Georgia. Fanning Institute faculty developed the programming and curriculum and are facilitating the program.

“This was an awesome beginning to what we hope will be a legacy for our state, building our young people into the inclusive and collaborative leaders we need for Georgia to continue to lead the nation,” Bullard said.

Bullard also introduced the Bullard Community Champions program to the youth, funded by a generous gift he made to UGA. His gift will enable Youth LEAD Georgia participants to take on service projects in their local communities, offering them the chance to put their new knowledge and leadership skills into action.

Along with the leadership training, the youth will participate in experiential learning activities and in-depth dialogue on current issues and challenges facing Georgia. They also will have the opportunity to interact with prominent business and community leaders.

“Equipping these youth with the skills to engage in their communities, connecting them with their peers to support each other and enabling them to apply those skills through real-life projects is supporting the development of our state’s future leaders,” said Matt Bishop, director of the Fanning Institute. “The Fanning Institute is excited to partner with Chick-fil-A and The Same House to support UGA’s mission to build leaders for our state.”

At the kickoff, participants got to know their classmates through team-building activities and explored their own individual leadership styles.

“It was really fun to meet different people from different places and learn about different schools,” said Samantha Barrera-Morales from Lilburn. “I loved how we all communicated together.”

The youth also experienced several UGA campus activities, received information regarding the college application process, learned more about Athens-Clarke County and discussed leadership with a host of local community leaders.

Students participate in teambuilding activities during Youth LEAD Georgia

At the kickoff, participants got to know their classmates through team-building activities and explored their own individual leadership styles. (Photo credit: Catherine Elrod/UGA J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development)

“I enjoyed how we meshed together,” said Mason Johnson from Albany. “An important part of leadership is coming together and understanding not just what you bring to the table but also what people from all different walks of life bring to the table.”

The J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach, trains, inspires and equips community leaders of all ages to lead positively and meaningfully in community and civic affairs, address critical challenges, bring people together and develop solutions that will lead to stronger and more vital communities across Georgia and beyond.

For more information on Youth LEAD Georgia, click here.

Writer: Charlie Bauder, 706-542-7039, charlie.bauder@fanning.uga.edu