Nathan Davis (back left) was the guest speaker at the recent Ralph Joseph Youth Leadership Class 19 graduation. Davis, Dr. William Joseph (back right) and Billie (Mrs. Ralph) Joseph (seated right) congratulate the graduating class. Graduates are (seated, from left): Bailey Medley, Sloan-Hendrix; Bridget Sloan, Black Rock; Natalie Glenn, Hillcrest; Aubree Hughart, Walnut Ridge; Caitlyn Steele, Hoxie; Courtney Light, Hoxie; Courtney Yarbrough, Walnut Ridge; (back): Katalina Holbrook, Black Rock; Rachel Crabtree, Hillcrest; Caitlin Whitmire, Hillcrest; Ryan Roberts, Black Rock; Kyle Murphy, Sloan-Hendrix; Chloe Rice, Walnut Ridge; Lillyan McQuay, Hoxie; Breanna Gosha, Sloan-Hendrix.

RJYL Class 19 Graduates

Fifteen youth representing the five high school campuses in the county just completed the eight-session Ralph Joseph Youth Leadership Program with graduation on Nov. 17.

This program covers community assessment, communications, leadership ropes course, etiquette, personality assessment, decision-making, project reports and cultural diversity. Members also completed a community service project during the program.

Jacki Whisnant, co-chairman, gave the welcome and explained that the program is the result of the late Dr. Ralph Joseph identifying a need in the community to train youth to be good leaders and give back to their communities. Dr. Joseph's estate, along with others, donates funds each year and a committee of volunteers conducts the program.

The group then recognized Mrs. Ralph Joseph and Dr. and Mrs. William Joseph in continuing the dream of Dr. Ralph Joseph. Other guests recognized were Dr. Brett Cooper, chairman of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, Greg Crabtree, supt. of Hillcrest School District, and Nathan Davis, speaker.

Tim Taylor, committee member, introduced Nathan Davis, graduate of RJYL class 4. Davis told the class that they are already leaders whether they realize it or not and the Ralph Joseph program helped them develop to the next level. He also spoke about how a leader needs to be honest, ethical, follow the laws and rules, know their strengths, understand their weaknesses and surround themselves with the best people they can.

Davis said leaders must be true to themselves and lead with their own style and approach. They should lead with passion, which can be motivating and contagious, and finally take advantage of opportunities and not let fear prevent them from acting.

Service projects highlighted

Lila Floyd, committee member, recognized the Community Service winners for 2013. Students from Hillcrest and Walnut Ridge were honored.

Hillcrest students Rachel Crabtree, Natalie Glenn and Caitlin Whitmire chose to support families in their community who are fighting cancer with a 5K Run for Cancer Awareness, which included a health and fitness day. Participants ran in the 5K and returned to the community center for fruit smoothies and information on how to develop a healthier lifestyle.

Approximately 60 people participated and $1,220 was raised and divided among four local families coping with the expense of travel and treatments. The Hillcrest students also promoted making better decisions regarding food and exercise habits as another major goal of their event.

Changing Walnut Ridge Public School was the theme of the project for Aubree Hughart, Chloe Rice and Courtney Yarbrough of Walnut Ridge. Identifying bullying and cyber bullying as issues, the group launched a major anti-bullying campaign. An assembly was held at the middle school to educate students on the effects of bullying, and then they formed a Unity Club, which meets monthly to promote competitions, skits and spirit days to continue educating grades five through eight.

A portion of the dues collected at the club was donated to PACER National Bullying Prevention Center. A high school assembly was held in which bullying and cyber bullying were discussed and Arkansas policies regarding such behavior was presented. Students shared personal stories in relation to their own victimizations.

Black Rock students Katalina Holbrook, Ryan Roberts and Bridget Sloan recognized a growing lack of morals and family values and wanted to change this trend by establishing a Christian club. The club was named Brothers and Sisters in Christ (BASIC). Working with the school administration, a set of guidelines was established and approximately 20 students meet monthly.

Breanna Gosha, Bailey Medley and Kyle Murphy of Sloan-Hendrix chose to form a drug-free club for eighth-grade students. The club's slogan was REFUSE, "Rethink Everything Before You Sink Everything." More than 50 students became involved in the club. Future plans are to develop a DARE program and team with the Drama Club to raise funds.

Hoxie students Courtney Light, Lillyan McQuay and Caitlyn Steele chose to benefit The Children's Shelter by hosting a 5K run on the Hoxie campus. Participants were asked to contribute $5 or a non-perishable item, which allowed them to raise $105 in cash and food and toiletry items for the shelter.

All the projects addressed an emotional need and included compassion for the difficult situations of others.

Katrina Burch, Lawrence County Extension family and consumer science agent, compiled a presentation of the class highlights.

Scholarship winners named

Jean Osburn, committee member, with the assistance of Lila Floyd, Lawrence Health Foundation board member, announced that Courtney Yarbrough from Walnut Ridge was chosen as the recipient of the $1,000 Lawrence Health Foundation scholarship in honor of Dr. Joseph to be used to attend an Arkansas institute of higher education.

Jacki Whisnant and John Thomison, co-chairs, presented the graduates with their graduation certificates.

Members of class 19 gave a response as to how they benefited individually by being a member and to thank Dr. Joseph's family for their continued support for his vision of youth leadership training.

The youth leadership program is made possible through the generous support of Dr. Ralph Joseph, M.D., Lawrence Health Foundation, Walmart, Larry Sloan, Robert Bosch Tools Corp., Ag Heritage Farm Credit Services, Regions Bank, Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, University of Arkansas for Agriculture - Extension Lawrence County, Lawrence County School Districts and Leadership Lawrence County Alumni Association.

Besides the monetary donations, many individuals donate time and expertise to teach the classes, prepare the notebooks, share meeting space, etc. and include Rep. James Ratliff, Karen Williams, Carrie Mae Snapp, Jennifer Smith, Suzanne Allen, Sandra McGinnis and Kathy Bradley.

To find out more about the RJYLP, contact the County Extension Office at 870-886-3741, or any graduate or committee member.

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