A select handful of eighth graders from Green Bank Elementary-Middle and Marlinton Middle schools gathered in the Pocahontas County High School auditorium Wednesday morning for a day of training in youth leadership, policy and how to influence said policy.
Throughout the training, students participated in a number of exercises that taught them the importance of recognizing their own passions, as well as the importance of being able to get to know the people they will work and interact with in the future.
The workshop – hosted jointly by West Virginia’s “Our Children, Our Future” [OCOF] campaign and PCHS Lead On Leadership team – began with an instruction on how to conduct self-interest surveys. Students were instructed to look at themselves and determine what their passions were and what they cared about the most – be it family, work, community, etc.
The first exercise centered around a “Stick Figure,” where personal interests were jotted down to help students discover where their passions lay and what they considered to be important. By learning to look inwardly at themselves, students will be able to take what they’ve learned and apply it to another person.
Their attention then turned to their partner, and each student had to uncover what was important to the person sitting across from them via a “faux” one-on-one meeting.
“Through that conversation, students will be able to learn what the other’s self-interests are and try to find an ‘in,’ per say,” guest speaker OCOF Eastern Regional Organizer LeeAnn Shreve explained. “Maybe they both grew up in poverty, or were from the same county. It’s all about finding that unusual connection. They’ll remember you and start to trust you.”
Shreve went on to explain that getting a person to understand an organization’s goal, what their role in the organization could be and how they could move forward together as partners is key. According to her, people are led to action through their beliefs, feelings and values, and it’s when they are touched on a personal level that they are called to action.
A third exercise helped students to understand the process that goes into creating a policy and the steps one needs to take in order to make it a reality.
“This is the future of West Virginia,” Shreve said, “and they need to understand that the power to make things better for those coming after them is in their hands. They have to be aware of what’s going on in their state, and at a young age, a lot of the time, everyone’s self-focused. Our young people really need to start paying attention to what’s going on around them, because, in one way or another, it impacts them.
“Students throughout West Virginia need to dig deep and work to find ways to solve the issues that set a fire within them. What calls them to action? Are they infuriated that there are still children going hungry when school ends for the summer? What about the children who have no one to care for them when they’re home? We don’t want to see children live in poverty. Our ultimate goal is to alleviate child poverty in the state and to build relationships that can make that happen.”
Experience has taught the program’s hosts and Lead On Leadership [LOL] president Carlie Ervine and member Emily Boothe that it takes time to get an organization off the ground, and in order to hit the ground running once the 2016-2017 school year begins in August, the girls decided it was important to have dedicated members coming in who had already undergone training.
To facilitate their goal, LOL members began recruiting eighth graders from each school to join their team.
“I was surprised to learn that a lot of the eighth graders in the [OCOF] training have already been actively involved with their communities,” Boothe said. “I wasn’t expecting that, but it was something that I was glad to hear.”
LOL first began in October when a suggestion from PCHS Guidance Counselor Linda Beverage named Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Foundation veterans Ervine and classmate Tessa Jordan as excellent candidates for heading the newly formed group.
Since its start, the group has grown to nearly 10 members, and in its first year, the organization set three main goals to work toward throughout the school year. So far, only one of LOL’s goals has been accomplished, but for Booth and Ervine, it was a victory in itself.
According to them, PCHS bathrooms – particularly the stalls – were in a state of disrepair. The stalls were covered with years worth of graffiti, high school scribbles and messages carved into the paint, and in some places, the stalls were rusty.
The group approached Pocahontas County Superintendent Terrence Beam and Director of Maintenance and School Safety Ron Hall with photos of the stalls and expressed their concerns.
“We invited them to the high school and showed them around,” Boothe explained. “They had no idea how bad the conditions were, but the stalls are being redone. New block has been laid down, and we have new stall walls. New doors will go on next, and we’re going to be getting new faucets, too.”
Now that the bathroom issues are close to completion, LOL has set its sights on the school’s parking lot and subsequent parking passes. With the end of the school year quickly approaching, the team members don’t expect to see results this time around, but are hopeful to have a head start on the issue for next year.
For more information concerning OCOF’s campaign to end child poverty in West Virginia, visit www.ocofwv.org.
Cailey Moore may be contacted at email@example.com