For all of those who say nothing good is coming out of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County, a fierce rebuttal to that assertion came from a group of highly motivated teenagers Thursday evening.
The Pine Bluff Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted a Recognition Reception for the Junior Leadership Pine Bluff Class of 2013, which marked the completion of its six-month program.
The class included 27 high school sophomores representing each of Jefferson County’s four school districts — Pine Bluff, Watson Chapel, White Hall and Dollarway — as well as Ridgway Christian School, St. Joseph Catholic School and one home schooler.
“We had fun activities that served as a jumping-off point for the discussion of social issues including how to handle bullying and business etiquette including what to wear to a job interview,” program co-director Ann Williams said. “They start out not wanting to be here but by the end they don’t want it to end. They’ve been a great group of kids.”
Williams said participants are selected on the basis of demonstrated leadership interest as well as evidence of community interest and commitment.
Each participant was called forward to receive their certificate of completion and to speak briefly about their experiences in the program.
KeShun Cross of Dollarway High School appreciated the opportunity to develop his leadership skills.
“I desire to be a person who adds value and does not take away,” Cross said. “I remember the words of my father who told me to work hard.”
Liz Lawrence of Ridgway Christian School wished the same opportunity afforded to her could be provided to more young people.
“I feel like if more teens had the advantage of taking courses like this then maybe the problems facing Pine Bluff would not be as severe,” Lawrence said. “I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this program.”
Quinton Moore of Watson Chapel High School said he appreciated the fact that a course like Junior Leadership is available to young people in Pine Bluff.
“This is the type of course that you think doesn’t happen in Pine Bluff but sometimes success runs right under your nose,” Moore said.
Maggie Rogers of White Hall High School said the course was a pleasant surprise.
“I like to call this a blessing in disguise,” Rogers said. “I’m not going to lie; I didn’t want to come to the first meeting. But as soon as I got here my attitude changed completely. Ms. Ann and Ms. Barbara [Rhinehart] made me feel right at home. Thank you, Junior Leadership Pine Bluff, for showing me that I can make a difference.”
Drake Palmer of St. Joseph Catholic School appreciated the wide range of activities.
“I enjoyed everything from learning what is going on at the mall to finding out who I really am because of my favorite color,” Palmer said.
Program co-director Barbara Rhinehart is committed to doing whatever she can to help area young people.
“This program is something that can really get them on the right path if they follow through with it,” Rhinehart said.