The DeSoto County Board of Education named 61 students to the Superintendent’s Youth Leadership Council (SYLC) at the Sept. 16 board meeting.
The SYLC focuses on leadership every year, but alternates between studying business and entrepreneurship and studying government. This year, they will be studying business and entrepreneurship.
“Student leadership is vital on a high school campus, and it is also important for student leaders from all eight of our high schools to be able to work together,” DeSoto County Schools Superintendent Cory Uselton Said. “With a school district of our size, it is sometimes difficult for students to be able to connect. Through our Superintendent’s Youth Leadership Council, students can collaborate with each other and take those ideas back to their own campus.”
The SYLC program started in 2006 and was designed to give DeSoto County’s high school students an extra opportunity to develop leadership skills. Students serve on the SYLC for their last two years of high school.
In the first two council meetings, the group focused on selecting students for officer positions, team-building activities, and getting to know each other. Starting in October, they will start hosting guest speakers. SYLC Co-sponsor Jeff Shands explained that they will hear from several local business leaders throughout the year.
People in the financial, agriculture, healthcare and fashion industries have committed to being guest speakers for the SYLC as they learn about business and entrepreneurship.
The group plans to tour local businesses next semester and continue to learn from people who run businesses.
“Towards the end of the Spring semester, the students actually will be putting together their own ‘Shark Tank’ presentations, so they will be developing mock businesses,” Shands said.
Before the pandemic, the SYLC used to take a trip to New York City on years they studied business, and a trip to Washington, D.C., when they studied government. Shands said they are still trying to figure out where they will travel to as the COVID-19 situation continues.
Students also work to improve their own communities every year as part of the council. Shands said that the students come up with their own ideas for community service projects and vote on which ones to do.
“They work together on community service projects and find ways to make our school district and our county even better,” Uselton said. “These activities strengthen the leadership capacity of our students, and then they give back to their school and our local community.”
The council hasn’t decided how to best serve their community yet this year because they’ve only had two meetings so far. Last year, they collected snacks and drinks and gave them to healthcare workers coming in and out of their facilities.
Along with Shands is SYLC Co-sponsor Amy Benson. Shands explained that their main role is as facilitators. They schedule meetings and guest speakers, communicate with students, plan their trips, and help get student-officers in place, but they let the SYLC members lead the meetings.
“Although they're all high-achieving academically, we do have diversity, which is wonderful,” Shands said. “We’ve had times when they’ve been able to share ideas and see that they don’t all believe the same, they don’t think the same. That really helps them grow as they encounter more people.”
The current members of the SYLC are Madison Washington, Jordan Jackson, Faith Joplin, Conner Roberson and Brandon Suh, representing Southaven High School; Samantha Harris Justice Ratliff, Fantasia Jones, Madolyn Holmes, Gracie Lee, Malik Mitchell and Kayla Taylor, representing Olive Branch High School; Hayes Herren, Anna Clark Bridges, Caroline Catledge, Jarrett Morris, Jorja Carter, Preston Shands, Olivia Cashion, Samuel Overstreet, Amelia Bowers, Riley Littleton, Bella Love and Anna Katherine Wood, representing Lewisburg High School; Kira Allen, Marcellus Odum, Kamdyn Montogomery, Alyson Nunn and Robert Price, representing Lake Cormorant High School; Kennedy Eldridge, Rose Stafford, Peyton Williamson, Mattie Sanders, Eli Rogers, Addison Kuykendall, Sarah Floate, Katherine Bush, Jackson Uselton, Ben Sartor, Alexandria Taylor, Hannah Grace Crain, Sydney Guntharp and Maryn Ludwig, representing Hernando High School; Adrian Guerra, Bethany Walker, Aminata Ba, Emily Smith, Easton Wamble, Spencer Hardin and Hon Lin Tsai, representing DeSoto Central High School; and Alexs Chen, Emma Kate Taylor, Ariadna Mendoza and Thomas Allen Sloan, representing Center Hill High School.