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Suwanee Program Teaches Teens Leadership, Civic Engagement

November 7, 2014
More than 50 local high school students have completed the city of Suwanee’s inaugural Suwanee Youth Leaders program.

After meeting with a variety of community leaders, developing their individual leadership philosophies and skills, and logging more than 700 community volunteer hours, more than 50 local high school students have completed the city of Suwanee’s inaugural Suwanee Youth Leaders (SYL) program. SYL is designed to build youth leaders in the community and outside the classroom.

“SYL has given me a chance to work deeper within my community on a level I had never experienced before,” says Mimi Zhang, a senior at North Gwinnett High School. “With SYL, students work with a whole new level of leaders in our community. I have a better understanding of how complicated and structured our city really is.”

Adds July Choi, a junior at North Gwinnett: “I was able to find out who I was as a leader.”

Suwanee’s SYL program started in January with students meeting on a monthly basis to participate in activities designed to enhance their team-building, communication and leadership skills. They had opportunities to interact with a variety of community leaders, including Mayor Jimmy Burnette, Gwinnett Chamber President and CEO Dr. Dan Kaufman, Atlanta Falcons kicker Matt Bryant, Suwanee Police Chief Mike Jones, Gwinnett Solicitor General Rosanna Szabo, State Court Chief Judge Pam South and Rep. Stacey Abrams, among others.

In addition, students attended Leadercast in the spring, helped plan Suwanee’s August Food Truck Friday event and volunteered at Suwanee’s August concert and wing festival and Suwanee Fest.

“We now have a group of young people who have more knowledge of their community and how local government works, and the work that goes into building community,” said Economic and Community Development Director Denise Brinson, who managed the program along with Downtown and Business Manager Adam Edge. “The city wanted to develop a real connection with our schools and find a way to meaningfully encourage youth involvement as prescribed in our 20/20 strategic plan.”

The Suwanee Youth Leaders program will be offered again next year and will run March-September. The program is open to current sophomores and juniors who attend public, private, and home-based schools in the North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge clusters. Applications will be available at suwanee.com beginning in November.
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