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Chamber of Commerce announces this year’s Junior Leaders

Each year the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce chooses high school juniors to represent the county as Junior Leaders over the course of a 10-month program. This year’s student volunteers have been selected and are ready to go.

Each student who wishes to be considered is required to complete an application, present recommendation forms and be interviewed by a panel of three business leaders. Up to 55 students can participate. This year’s group will include 50 students, from  Russellville City Schools as well as Franklin County Schools.

Junior Leaders will be found throughout the county working at events and festivals such as the Franklin County Watermelon Festival, Red Bay Founder’s Day, Vina’s July Fest, Spirit of Hodges Festival, Spruce Pine Day, Pumpkin Palooza and Holly Day.

“While involved in the program, participants enhance skills in leadership, professionalism, communication and team-building,” explained Blaze Bishop, media relations manager for the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. “In addition, Junior Leaders will become familiar with what makes Franklin County unique, while getting to know other students from all over the county.”

Bishop said the students will spend time serving the community, building relationships with fellow Junior Leaders and becoming a team with a common vision.

Each student is required to volunteer a minimum of 50 hours in the county. They must also attend leadership events for skills, team-building and industry touring, as well as participate in a job shadowing experience in a career field in the county.

A skills day is conducted during the summer before their junior year of high school, where each student learns how to shake hands, make an introduction and communicate professionally via email and texting. Lessons also include technology etiquette, the importance of good digital citizenship, the value of a first impression, how to create a scholarship resume and cover letter and how to write a thank you note.

Chamber director Cassie Medley heads this presentation and uses her experiences to provide examples to help relate each skill to real world situations.

“I am so excited for this new group of Franklin County Junior Leaders,” Medley said. “My favorite part is seeing their growth over the course of the program.”

Medley said a team-building day kicks off each year’s programming, encourages the students to work together toward a common goal. The event takes place at Dismals Canyon in Phil Campbell, where the new Junior Leaders from all over the county have the opportunity to interact with and get to know each other better.

Bishop said these connections help them become more comfortable with the idea of working together in large groups with people they might not have known beforehand, while also serving to help prepare them for productive teamwork in their future professional lives as well as within the community in general.   

A day for career and industry affords participants the chance to learn about the career opportunities available throughout the county, both by hearing from people in local career fields as well as by touring industries. Medley said the tours are immersive, showing firsthand the different levels of career opportunities available within a single company. Students are able to get a good look at options they might not have previously considered.

For job shadowing day, each student selects three careers of interest and is then assigned a job from among those to shadow during an assigned school day. Students shadow on site and usually one-on-one with a selected person who is already engaged in one of their chosen careers.

“This gives our young leaders an opportunity to see the available jobs and careers in their hometown and learn about options they may not have previously considered,” said Medley. “As many as 30 employers have participated in the past. Students are also required to complete a questionnaire on their job shadowing experience.”

Medley said the Junior Leadership program not only enhances cooperation among schools but also “helps develop a greater sense of community pride,” said Medley.  “At the end of their service, it is inspiring to read their essays as they reflect on how the Junior Leadership program changed them.”

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