By Debra Davis
An elite group of ninth and 10th graders from throughout Alabama attended the Alfa Youth Leadership Conference at the 4-H Center in Columbiana April 29-30.
Students applied for the conference, which focused on training future leaders. It is sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Federation, Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation, county Farmers Federations and Alabama Farm Credit (AFC).
“This meeting helps prepare students to be future leaders, but in many cases they’re already leaders in their schools and communities,” said Wiley Bailey, who helped coordinate the conference for the Federation. “It’s important to inspire young leaders and get them involved as advocates for agriculture and to encourage them to serve their communities.”
Attendees hailed from 30 counties and worked to identify personal strengths, develop negotiation skills and discover a passion for service.
The agenda included team-building activities at the 4-H Center’s challenge course and teen safety workshops.
AFC was a new supporter of the program and sponsored motivational speaker and leadership trainer Rhett Laubach, who challenged students to be a positive influence on their peers.
“Alabama Farm Credit understands the importance of creating advocates for agriculture through our next generation,” said Samantha Southerland, AFC’s public relations and marketing manager. “That is why helping sponsor this event for the Alabama Farmers Federation was important to us. The Federation does an excellent job providing education to our youth in a way that motivates them to become leaders in their communities.”
Bailey, a former National FFA officer, said students formed networks that will last through college and into their careers.
Students like Jessica Pratt, a ninth grader from Marbury High School in Autauga County, and Brayden Sexton, a Hazel Green High School 10th grader from Madison County, said the conference was a great experience.
“The whole conference was fun,” Pratt said. “I enjoyed getting to meet new people and learned communications skills and leadership goals that will help us in the future and help us grow.”
Sexton, who attended the conference in 2019, said he loves the atmosphere for the event.
“This is a great opportunity to meet new people from around the state,” he said. “I’ve made some new friends from Baldwin County — the farthest end of the state from me — whom I would have never met otherwise. The program and the speakers are all great. I would encourage anyone interested in developing their leadership skills to apply for this conference.”
Another Youth Leadership Conference is scheduled for November. Watch for application information in upcoming issues of Neighbors magazine.