Leadership group hopes to empower youth


Provided/Zach Walker

Youth Leadership Initiative students pose at Grays Lake for the photo. For more information, follow them on Twitter or go to their information page. www.desmoinesmetro.com/education @YLIDSM

Carly Kinning, Sub Editor

Youth Leadership Initiative began in the Fall of 2011, and since then has been a growing program in the Des Moines area. It is a partnership for Greater Des Moines, and directed by Nathan Ritz. Just under 300 students have graduated from this program since its launch.

YLI is looking for new members to join the program for the 2014-2015 year, and applications are going to be due at the end of April.

Junior Zach Walker graduated from this program last year, and was brought back on to the Executive Board for Alumni Engagement.

“This program has impacted me in so many different ways,” Walker said. “It broadened my leadership abilities and qualities and I learned so much about myself, others, and the community. I met so many inspiring people throughout the year. “

Youth Leadership Initiative meets twice a month, once on Friday and then the following Monday. On Fridays the student members explore the community, listen to speakers, and it is an excused absence from school. It lasts from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Fridays, and usually takes place at the United Way building.

On Fridays when the students explore businesses and organizations in Des Moines, they learn how to be a versatile leader. They will learn about topics such as health and wellness, financial literacy, communication, and many more. There are also activities the students participate in to help develop their skills.

This year junior Julian Neely was the only member of YLI from Johnston, and developed his leadership skills along with members from schools all around the Des Moines area.

“I’ve met new people, learned what it takes to be a leader, and also what all Des Moines gives to us as a city and how it has developed over time,” Neely said.

After they engage in their activities on Friday, the following Monday night from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., they revisit the the topic and go over what was done.

Walker would really enjoy seeing Johnston students become involved in this program because of all it has to offer.

“I would recommend it because it is just a great way to learn about all the opportunities Des Moines has to offer,” Walker said. “I think that people in Johnston often don’t realize what all Des Moines offers, and this program really broadens one’s knowledge and experiences.”

To qualify for Youth Leadership Initiative, students must be entering their junior or sophomore year.

Applications are going to be available in the offices on Thursday, April 10 to join Youth Leadership Initiative, and will be due Friday, April 25.