The group was inducted into the Teen Leadership Council, a body of students nominated through the Freshman Academy for their grades, conduct and leadership abilities. The program is sponsored by the high school, 2nd Chance and the Public Education Foundation of Anniston.
“We tell kids all the time you can change the world, but we have to give them the tools to be able to do that,” said Trace Fleming-Smith, an advocate with 2nd Chance, who teaches a teen dating violence prevention curriculum to ninth-graders.
The program, called Safe Dates, teaches respect and healthy communication skills to combat violence before it begins.
Adviser Brittany Waters said members of the Teen Leadership Council work to leverage the skills they learn in their Freshman Academy classes to further conversation on campus about such issues as having respectful relationships.
The students’ most recent project, she said, was last week’s Respect Revolution assembly, where they charged the student body to respect each other and passed out respect wrist bands to serve as reminders.
“We’re inducting them to be leaders so they can show the rest of the school and the rest of the class and the community how to have a healthy relationship by putting respect in the forefront and not be afraid to go out there and attack different issues that are affecting teens.”
Decked out in white and black finery, Charity Bowman, Leonard Brown, J’Kyra Clemons, Kyela Fluker, Raven Johnson, Jasmine Keeler, Mattie Logan and Zebedee Lunsford were all welcomed to the program in a ceremony in the high school auditorium. Carsheuna Curry is also a new member of the council but was not present at the ceremony.
The students said they were drawn to the club for the opportunity to lead by example.
“I did it to show what a real leader does,” said Logan, “and also show those that even though you’re popular or whatever, you can still go outside your group that you hang with and do something different than what they do.”
These ninth-grade leaders also plan to seize the opportunity to put out positive messages about their school rather than the negativity they perceive circulates more frequently.
Johnson said part of the reason she joined the Teen Leadership Council is to “get rid of negative things that are being said about our school, little negative remarks about us.”
The nine students coming together as leaders are quite different, they said, but the program has helped teach them that it’s fine to stand alone from time to time.
“We can be different and it doesn’t matter,” Bowman said.” We don’t have to blend in with everybody.”
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.