Junior leaders get an early start on shaping their community

Published 3:30 pm Tuesday, February 15, 2022

It’s never too early to start making a change right in your own backyard and, under the guidance of Oxford-Lafayette County Junior Leader, young teens in the county can get their head start.

Members of the Junior Leadership Class of 2022 have already begun their first sessions on leadership and team building with 32 students from Lafayette County and Oxford High School. Tenth-grade students are taught community service, leadership, team building, the medical community, education, government, legal issues, the arts, and law enforcement.

“Science shows that the earlier people start volunteering the more likely they are to continue volunteering as adults,” said Chairwoman Lolita Gregory. “Whether they continue to do it indeed or branch out to other things they are passionate about, that’s what we are hoping to instill.”

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The Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce began the Junior Leadership program in 1998 in hopes to foster and grow the early development of leadership skills of youth in the community. Those skills, if planted and nurtured, could encourage the students to put them back into the city of Oxford and Lafayette County.

Gregory has been involved in Junior Leadership for about 15 years and 12 of those were as chair. She said her time has allowed her to see the programs’ lasting impact in Oxford and Lafayette County and its kids.

“These are smart students and the fact that they take the time to apply and that they’re interested in it always speaks to the individuals that they are,” said Gregory.

The first three official sessions focused on getting the teens used to the idea of the program, emphasizing the importance of working with each other, learning what it means to be a great leader and how to put that into action.

As they work through the sessions, students will work together on a community service project with one of the three non-profits chosen by the board committee. This year, the students will work on projects for Doors of Hope, Lovepacks and Mississippi Blood Services.

According to Gregory, Junior Leadership has a long-standing relationship with Lovepacks and Mississippi Blood Services while their partnership with Doors of Hope is relatively new.

“Every year we select three organizations to work with and we have a long-standing partnership with Lovepacks and Mississippi Blood Services,” said Gregory. “We’ve actually been working with them for years. Doors of Hope — they are newer to us. It’s actually been two years.”

For both Lovepacks and Doors of Hope service projects, students will schedule and plan a drive for necessities, which change depending on what the organizations are looking for or what is trending. With Mississippi Blood Services, students are responsible for acquiring three blood donors and hosting a blood drive.

“All these things are important because we’re teaching them the importance of supporting non-profits and other organizations that are in their community, but also being able to recognize the importance of providing a need for people who are in need,” said Gregory.

Participating Lafayette County High School students: Maggie Hazlewood, Andrew Jordan, Katelynn Kirkendall, Caroline Norris, Claire Anne Pugh, Jorian Shaw, Francis Swain, JP Swain, Anna Katherine Taylor, Anna Brooke Wood

Participating Oxford High School students: Gates Allen, Z’Nyla Bean, Caroline Berry, Sara Kate Bundren, Ben Campbell, Rachel Cohen, DJ Davis, Jackson Doss, Parker Freeny, Peter Grandjean, Henry Haley, Zeyad Ibrahim, Kobe Jones, Mae Maxwell, Cait Mayo, Andrews McLellan, Merritt Newcomb, Graham Sherman, Sutherland Smith, Navaneeth Srinath, Ashley Sudduth, Brinn Vaughn