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Exploring the City Through Richardson Youth Leadership

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For 36 area high school juniors, 2013-14 was more than just a typical busy school year. These students applied for and were accepted into the Richardson Youth Leadership (RYL) program. Celebrating 20 years, the program that shadows Leadership Richardson—the leadership development program of the Richardson Chamber of Commerce—provided students an unmatched experience.

Each month students spent time learning about personal leadership skills and group dynamics, as well as getting hands-on exposure to topics ranging from public safety, business and economic development, city government, health care and education. Students also served the community by working a special shift at Santa’s Village to enable select children to attend the event during off hours and raising money to buy a new printer for the artist-in-residence program at the Methodist Richardson Cancer Center.

“As a part of RYL, I got a chance to learn many different leadership skills and how useful they are in our daily lives,” said Omer Fiazuddin, Berkner High School.

One key element of the program is encouraging students to mix and interact with participants from other schools.

“I really loved being able to view different parts of the community with other students that I would not have met if it hadn’t been for RYL,” said Erika Casales, Pearce High School.

Jeff Thomas, executive director of the Richardson YMCA and vice president of RYL for the Leadership Richardson Alumni Association, describes the program as a “fun, interactive way for students to learn valuable life skills.”

“It’s different from any other experience offered to students,” Thomas said. “These young people get an opportunity to interact with leaders from the Richardson area and with students from other schools. They learn to think about things that affect not only themselves but their communities.”

Clipp McKeen of Pearce High School said he valued being able to participate in and learn about the educational and political aspects of Richardson. “By being able to go places such as the Richardson Police Department and city hall, I have been able to meet the people who lead this city and who are always looking at ways to improve society,” McKeen said.

The juniors selected for this program are typically already involved in numerous scholastic and extra-curricular activities. Current activities, leadership roles, grade point averages and community recommendation letters are all a part of the application process.

“This year’s RYL experience has been absolutely amazing,” said Griffin Camacho, Richardson High School. “I’ve had a great time learning more about Richardson, its city leaders and the wonderful people who live here.” Even with an extra-curricular list that includes the lead role in the school’s production of Shrek and All-State Choir, Camacho still rates RYL high on his list. “Being in Richardson Youth Leadership is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my high school career.”

The youth program is supported by the Leadership Richardson Alumni Association and requires the assistance of an extensive list of Richardson-area business leaders, community leaders and volunteers. More information can be found at lralumni.com.  •

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