Young leaders tour region for opportunity

Published 9:44 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Caroline Casey, 17, from Grassfield High School in Chesapeake, helps the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance place storm drain medallions in the Burbage Grant area Thursday for the eXcel program through LEAD Hampton Roads. The group is visiting businesses throughout the region this week to witness different leadership styles.

More than 30 high school students from all across Hampton Roads are getting a behind the scenes tour of the region this week.

Through the LEAD Hampton Roads eXcel program, the 31 teens, who represent all areas of South Hampton Roads, are learning about the employment opportunities located right in their backyard and visiting companies and organizations in all of the five Southside cities.

“They’ll realize that there are a wealth of possibilities in Hampton Roads,” said Angela Blackwell Carter, vice president of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and the director of LEAD Hampton Roads.

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This is the third year LEAD has offered the program that teaches the students leadership skills and exposes them to the business profile of the area.

During the week, the students have visited different locations to learn about leadership in all types of businesses, including the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Harbor Park and APM Terminals.

On Thursday, the group visited Suffolk to tour Lockheed Martin’s Center for Innovation and learn about environmental challenges in the area with the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance and the Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve.

Carter said the group participates in a community service project every year. This year, some students helped NRPA place medallions on storm drains in Burbage Grant while the others did maintenance work in Hoffler Creek.

The medallions warn people that the drain leads straight to the river. They’re part of an effort to reduce pollution in the Nansemond.

“Every leadership class leaves behind a legacy in the community,” she said. “It’s a great way to get them out and get to know each other better.”

Mark Jamias, 16, a North Suffolk resident who attends Norfolk Collegiate School, said he was excited to learn about the businesses in Suffolk.

“Our visit (to Lockheed Martin) really does re-emphasize that Suffolk is the future for Hampton Roads,” he said. “It’s a really big testament to how we can grow. And as a Suffolkian, it makes me glad to know that I can be part of that future.”

Carter said she thinks the program helps the students identify their strengths and figure out what they want to do as a career.

She said eXcel is an opportunity for LEAD Hampton Roads to reach out to students before they head off to college and show them the opportunities for them in the region.

“The main goal is to start to prepare them for the real world, and we hope that when they leave us on Friday, in addition to enhance their leadership skills, they’ll have a vision for their life that includes Hampton Roads,” she said.

She added, “And if they do leave, they will be the best ambassadors to the area.”