Youth leadership class encourages Hawkinsville teen to create mentorship program
December 15, 2016
By Ashleigh Austel
Bullying is a national problem that has gained attention in recent years as it has progressively increased. Anjunita Davis, a junior at Hawkinsville High School, is doing her part to put an end to what many are calling a major public health issue.
Leadership development has been a priority for Hawkinsville-Pulaski County since it became an Archway Partnership community in 2009. The community formed the Pulaski Tomorrow organization as a direct response to this focus on leadership.
Michelle Elliott, Pulaski County Archway Professional and Pulaski Tomorrow facilitator, says, “The need to identify and train new and emerging leaders from all segments of Pulaski County is critical to the success and work of the Archway Partnership, and the community overall.”
Sharing Positivity by Encouraging Acts of Kindness (SPEAK) is a mentorship program for third-grade girls dealing with bullying. Davis’ own experience being bullied in elementary school encouraged her to want to tackle this issue.
Davis worked with Katrina Blake, counselor at Pulaski County Elementary School, to organize the program and connect with other girls to be involved. All the girls in the group have either been bullied or been bullies.
The first meeting took place in September, and the girls will continue to meet once a month to talk about their experiences with bullying and find positive ways to confront it.
“I hope that in the end they will see that you can’t let someone else control your circumstances. Bullying is a power thing. I want them to learn to be confident and stand up for themselves,” Davis said.
The program currently consists of 10 third-grade girls from Pulaski County Elementary School, but Davis would like to see more girls added to the group over time. She would love to see the program continue to grow so that those being mentored now can one day become mentors for the next generation.
Davis believes that mentorship of young girls by older girls is important in confronting the negative influences of the media; particularly the way women and body image are portrayed.
The experience of the Pulaski Youth Leadership Academy was the catalyst for SPEAK.
“Before the Youth Leadership Academy I never would have done anything like this. I was really shy. The leadership program helped bring me out my shell,” Davis said.
The Pulaski Tomorrow Youth Leadership Academy began in 2014. It utilizes the Youth Leadership in Action curriculum created by the UGA Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. The program sessions are based on individual leadership, collective leadership and community leadership.
Superintendent Jane Dollie Williams was instrumental in creating a program that would focus on developing younger high school students. She saw the importance of getting students into the leadership class early in their high school career, in order for them to have time to implement the things they would learn.
“These students are already leaders when they start, but they are even more so when they are finished with the program,” Williams said.
The Youth Leadership Academy is generously supported by the Pulaski County School System. Additional local sponsors provide the funds for students to participate free of charge. This year’s sponsors are: Central Georgia Technical College, Hollingsworth and Vose, Planters First Bank, ECP, Eldercare, Hawkinsville Rotary Club, Pulaski Tomorrow and Complete Graphic Solutions (in-kind sponsor).