CHEYENNE – Students in Laramie County are heading back to school, but some high school juniors are going to be gaining some real-world skills outside of the classroom.
Junior Leadership of Laramie County aims to prepare students for life after high school, while giving them leadership skills.
Meeting once a month throughout the school year, participants learn everything from how to handle a budget to how a bill becomes a law. Each month’s meet-up includes guest speakers who offer insight into life beyond the walls of high school.
Originally started as a class project for the 1999-2000 Leadership Cheyenne class, the program is open to every junior and has now reached hundreds of students who want to gain leadership skills. The goal of the program is that these students will use the knowledge they have gained to eventually support community and economic development in Laramie County.
“It’s a great program,” said Linda Davenport, chairperson of Junior Leadership of Laramie County. “The kids really form a bond with each other. They learn just what to look for when they go out on their own and what to expect. It looks great on their résumé.”
Davenport said several of her grandchildren have either already participated or are getting ready to participate in the program. They have gained experiences that will benefit them down the road. For Davenport’s grandson, Josh Stevens, who participated last year, learning about financial literacy is in line with his future goals of working as a leader in finance.
“It helps you build leadership,” Stevens said. “I want to be a business owner, and you don’t learn a lot of that financial stuff and how to do your bills in school. I think taking that class definitely helps you figure that out.”
Starting with a team-building event in September, the students then learn about Cheyenne’s history and cultural opportunities in October. College and career day in November teaches résumé writing, interviewing and conversation skills, and employer expectations. Volunteering with community organizations takes place in December, and then it’s on to city and county day in January, where students learn about law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
Students get to spend a day with state government officials in February, when they learn about how a bill becomes a law, and have an opportunity to speak with legislators, lobbyists and state agency directors. They also get to attend the governor’s prayer breakfast. Learning about financial literacy at Laramie County Community College’s Reality Town and visiting local branches of the military round out the year. The program year ends with a celebration for participants and their families in May.
For Pine Bluffs resident Savannah Norman, who participated in last year’s program, her favorite month was the community service and volunteer class.
“It was a really great experience because we got to learn there are people out there who need help with stuff, and we can help them,” Norman said. “Other people are in tougher situations than us, and it’s important to give back when you can.”
She said the financial literacy day also was beneficial.
“I think it would be really great for everyone to go through that in high school,” she said. “We learned how important it is to budget.”
Norman said she has encouraged her friends to join the program.
“I told them that not only do you get to get out of school a couple of days, you are also learning a bunch of really cool stuff,” she said with a laugh. “It makes you look at things differently before you go through your senior year and you are starting to make life decisions.”