Sophomores chosen for seminar

Published 11:43 pm Friday, January 14, 2011

Three Suffolk Public Schools sophomores have been selected to take part in a leadership seminar in May at James Madison University.

Kenya Mattocks from King’s Fork High School, Matthew Bradshaw from Lakeland High School and Jenell Jones from Nansemond River High School were selected to participate in the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership program. Close to 9,000 students annually participate in the HOBY programs, which were founded in 1958 to inspire leadership and community service.

Suffolk Public Schools have been sending representatives to this conference for years, said Deborah Williams, guidance director at Nansemond River High School.

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“[These students] should really pat themselves on the back,” Williams said. “We have so many students that are positive candidates that it is hard to choose.”

At this conference, students attend leadership workshops, listen to motivational speakers, participate in team building activities, and are made aware of community service options available to them.

“It allows them to enhance their leadership qualities and affords them the opportunity to work with students from other areas,” Williams said.

Students are selected from the sophomore population at each school to attend this conference.

The guidance department identifies students who would make good candidates for the program — those with leadership qualities, communication skills, the ability to relate to other people of various backgrounds, and participation in community service. The principal from each school pays for the student to participate in the program.

While the evaluation criteria and process may be somewhat different at each school,

“It is a serious competition,” Williams said. “If they were chosen, it was not an easy choice. They had some strong competition. They should feel really positive.”

At Nansemond River High School, candidates are identified by their counselors and their teachers. Candidates submit resumes and write essays about leadership and community service.

A committee made up of counselors, teachers and administrators then evaluates the essays and resumes and calls in the top five students for interviews.

During these interviews, students are evaluated on their abilities to communicate verbally and relate to other people.

Following the interviews, two students are chosen — one to represent the school at the seminar, with a second as an alternate in case the first choice is unable to attend.

According to Williams, the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Seminar enhances students’ leadership, human relations and critical thinking skills and affords students the opportunity to provide their input on topics that are important to them.

The Hugh O’Brian Leadership Seminar will provide Suffolk’s chosen representatives with leadership training that will teach them how to make a positive impact on the community, Williams said.