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Getting a head start as a young adult

Getting a head start as a young adult

By Nancy Price

Learning to budget personal finances, understanding how to work with different personality types and knowing how to network are skills most of us don’t develop until we get our first jobs and live on our own.

Some local high school students and recent graduates already have a head start on these life lessons thanks to their participation in Leadership Johnson County Youth Leadership Academy.

Leadership Johnson County is an adult community leadership training program at Franklin College designed to help citizens develop leadership skills and community awareness through educational workshops and seminars to assist individuals and their organizations thrive in a competitive business environment.

Amy Kelsay serves as coordinator of the Youth
Leadership Academy. (Photo by Neal Smith)


“Leadership Johnson County celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2019 and in response to this, the Youth Leadership Academy was established,” said Amy Kelsay, a 2003 graduate of the Leadership Johnson County (LJC) program and current Youth Leadership Academy Coordinator. “LJC does a fantastic job of teaching leadership to adults so this provides a great opportunity to work with youth leaders.”

The Youth Leadership Academy is a five-month program for select Johnson County residents and high school students (they must complete an application in advance). To participate, students must be sophomores or juniors (or are home-schooled at that level).

“The program is designed to help students learn about their community and how they can make a difference as a student leader,” Kelsay said. “They gain knowledge and skills that will prepare them for their future in terms of communication, collaboration, financial management and networking. The skills gained through the Youth Leadership Academy are designed to help these students not only in their high school careers but also later in life. It helps to build their network of people who care about our youth in Johnson County and encourages the students to step out of their comfort zones.”

Students from different high schools play icebreaker games on the retreat. (Submitted photo)

Participants attend an opening-day retreat in early August, appear at four scheduled class dates throughout the year, complete a community service project and present the project at the graduation celebration. Once students complete the program, they will earn one college credit at Franklin College.


Maecee Terhune, a recent Greenwood Community High School graduate, participated in the academy’s first program class last year. “I learned the most from personality traits because I was able to learn about all the different traits that everyone possessed,” she said. “These traits are the reason people act how they do and what part of their personality shows. I learned that I am an ‘orange’ personality trait, which means I am outgoing and I’m not afraid to voice my opinion. This shows in my leadership because I am a leader who is verbal and talks to people and will stand up for what I believe in to make a change.”

“I think the parts I probably learned the most were from the finance and history days,” added Bryce Rayner, a Center Grove senior. “The finance days taught me things that they don’t really teach in school that is useful for life, like budgeting and shopping tips. The history day helped me feel more connected and engaged with my community.”

Maecee Terhune is a recent Greenwood Community High School graduate. (Submitted photo)

During an all-day retreat, students from various Johnson County high schools learned names of those attending by playing an ice breaker. Participants had to state the name of the person they passed an object to in order to help them remember names while working together in a group project. “We proceeded with the day and chose our group project and spent more time getting to know others and learning the importance of involving everyone in your team,” Terhune said.


“Going into this group I did not know anyone at all. The first meeting I was terrified to go because I was worried it would be uncomfortable and I wouldn’t have any friends,” she added. “I quickly made friends with many people there. I still talk to a lot of them and they have become people I really count on in my life.”

Rayner said he would recommend the academy to others because he found the program to be a good learning experience, yet fun. “Youth Leadership Academy has changed me and prepared me for college by helping me learn about my own values and how I interact with people,” he said. “This will help in the future with job positions and leading groups.”

Bryce Rayner is a Center Grove High School senior. (Submitted photo)

For more information about Youth Leadership Academy, go to leadershipjohnsoncounty.org/youth-leadership-academy.

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