CARBONDALE - Talented Southern Illinois high school students got a leg up on potential future careers as politicians and community leaders Tuesday during the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute's Youth Leadership Day.
The institute hosted about 36 students from high schools throughout Southern Illinois.
Emily Burke, program coordinator for the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said the leadership day event has tripled in size since last year. Burke said the institute feels that Southern Illinois is left out in some aspects, and they feel Southern Illinois' approach to politics is different from other regions.
She said the institute wanted to bring together talented students from the region and give them information that could help them in future careers. Burke said the event featured a series of speakers including: SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute Director David Yepsen, SIUC Professor Linda Baker, Visiting Professor John Jackson and political science student Lee Stewart. The students also took a trip to Morris Library's Special Collections where they discussed civic engagement and were able to view Paul Simon's typewriter and chair.
Burke said throughout the day the students were told not to become discouraged if initiatives they undertake aren't immediately successful.
"Sometimes you put all of your effort into something and see very little outcome and most people just can't handle that," she said. "And I think that's what distinguishes leaders from other people, their ability to keep plowing forward even though the results don't seem to be coming out right."
"If we can have more leaders realize that I think they'll be more successful," she added. "There are a lot of discouraging things when you are in an area that needs a lot of work and it's tough. I think that young people overall are more optimistic actually than some people my age group."
Eric Woolard, a senior at Shawnee High School, said he was impressed with how active and dedicated his peers were. Woolard said he was involved in his high school's levee project, which voiced concerns about possible breaches in Southern Illinois to congressmen, but said the leadership day helped him to build further skills in taking action.
"It's encouraged me to just do everything I can while I can," Woolard said. "To go the extra mile every chance I get."
Adrian Miller, a Carbondale Community High School senior, said the event allowed him to improve his leadership qualities, which he hopes will help him become a great leader. Miller said he has served as class president at his high school for four years, and hopes to have a career in public service.
"I believe that, especially my generation, we're facing some difficult times down the road and that we need to develop leaders that can answer the questions and make tough decisions that are going to solve not only Illinois' problems, but the nation's problems," Miller said.
Source: The Southern