110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Pat Andrews
posted Apr 4, 2013 - 3:34:15pm
They arrived in the Frank T. Bruno Jr. County Council chambers just in time for a heated discussion of community-redevelopment areas, and to hear some off-the-record comments from city leaders who were unhappy with the County Council's postponement of the agenda item.
The "they" in question were participants in the the Tomorrow's Leaders program — 38 high-school juniors from schools all around Volusia County.
The County Council meeting was just one of their stops. Students visited the Elections Office in DeLand and other governmental offices, the International Speedway and other businesses small and large in the county, local universities and professional offices.
The six-month leadership program began in October and just finished up.
Sponsored by FUTURES Foundation for Volusia County Schools, the program's goal is to groom students for future leadership positions in the community, by understanding how local government works, how private industry succeeds, and what it means to be a professional.
It's modeled on Chamber of Commerce leadership programs.
The Beacon talked with students over boxed lunches in the training rooms at the County Administration Center March 21, after their visit to the County Council meeting.
The students are not just tomorrow's leaders. They are today's leaders in their high schools — club presidents, student-body officers, and honor-society members.
Nevertheless, Tomorrow's Leaders has been a great experience that's helped them focus on their future, the students said.
John Heiland of University High School in Orange City said, "It's really helped me."
He learned how to organize and set up assistance programs as a result.
Heiland is not yet sure what career he'll pursue.
Ashton Langrick of Deltona High said of the program, "It helped me be more confident and get the student body more involved."
As a result, she took part in a project that opened her eyes to the situation of homeless people.
"I partnered in the Teens for Jeans program with Aeropostale," collecting 285 pairs of jeans for the needy, and gaining a lot of self-worth as a benefit, she said.
Langrick said she wants to attend Florida State University, possibly majoring in a bio-medical field.
Joseph Warren, also of University High, said, "It's been an exciting program." He's learned what leaders have to do to keep their communities running.
He was impressed with visits to the State Attorney's Office, the local judiciary and the School Board. Warren will go in another career direction, however, possibly into computer science.
Joseph Pizza of University High School called Tomorrow's Leaders "an eye-opening experience."
He met professional people, all of whom work incredibly hard and are motivated.
As for the County Council, he's was impressed that they were able to move forward and "do a lot by consensus."
He's considering aerospace or mechanical engineering for his own career, although he wants to major in another love, as well: jazz studies.
So, how do these students get to participate in Tomorrow's Leaders?
FUTURES Director Kelly Ferguson explained a selection committee of FUTURES board members and staff select students who will participate in the program.
"We encourage our area high schools to submit students they feel are qualified and would benefit from the program. The principals, teachers and guidance counselors usually work together on this," she said.
Decisions are made based on applications, recommendation letters, academic achievement, community service participation, civic responsibility and other leadership factors, she said.
Corporate, governmental and private donations fuel Tomorrow's Leaders activities.
The non-profit FUTURES Foundation was established in 1985 to increase business and community involvement in public schools.
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