Since its origin in 1995, the Faulkner County Youth Leadership Institute’s purpose has been to expose high school students from districts all around the county to opportunities for community involvement and improvement in the area.
Through the years, the classes of around 30 to 35 students have traveled around learning about Faulkner County’s many avenues for personal growth.
Volunteer Crystal Kemp said this year’s 2016-17 group of students were great.
"They brought a lot of energy to each session and worked to learn about the topics covered as they could," she said. "[They] were extremely interested in the various sessions and in finding ways that they could impact the community."
The most recent class graduated on April 9.
Kemp said applications for the upcoming class were due in March, participants have been selected and everything will kick-off again this summer.
"We always look forward to a new group of students," she said. "They come in to retreat in July and don’t know each other or what to expect from the experience."
As they go through the monthly sessions — ranging from health care professionals to nonprofits in the community to media outlet informationals — Kemp said the adult volunteers get to see the students grow and start to look for new ways they can make an impact in Faulkner County.
"When they [graduated] in April, they [had] formed a connection with one another and with the community," she said. "It is a great experience for them and for those who volunteer with the program."
For Kemp, FCYLI is close to home.
"I was a part of the 1995 Faulkner County Leadership Institute class," she said. "As our community service project, we founded the youth program and I have been volunteer with it since that time."
Kemp said it is hard to believe the upcoming class will be the 23rd group of students to enter the program.
"I look around now and see graduates in all areas of our community," she said. "Some are in careers at our schools and colleges. Others work for nonprofits, our city and all kinds of professions. Some are business owners."
Kemp said she thinks former students have carried the experience they had while in FCYLI with them as they into their careers and they have decided where to work and serve.
Conway High School student Magie Perez was a part of the recent class.
She said she joined FCYLI because a group of her friends were talking about it and ultimately encouraged her to join.
For the first session, Perez said they went around to different nonprofits in Conway, like the Bethlehem House.
"We were able to see how Conway does its best to help those who need it the most," she said. "The program really helped me see what all goes [on] around Conway, like behind the scenes that we don’t usually notice."
Direction, Kemp said, has also recently changed.
She said the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce is now responsible for the programs.
The announcement was made on the FCYLI’s Facebook page Oct. 20, 2016.
"For years, the Faulkner County Youth Leadership Institute has equipped young people in our area with the skills needed to prepare them for future careers and community service," Director of Member Engagement at the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce Leo Cummings, III said. "I’m proud of these students and am looking forward to working with the incoming class."
He said In early 2016, the chamber was approached by the FCLI chairman and FCLI alumni president about the program changing hands and becoming a part of the chamber. Cummings said the program was organized and executed by volunteers and they felt the program may be better suited with full-time staff.
"The move was mutually beneficial for both the chamber and FCLI," Cummings said.
For more information, contact Leo Cummings, III at email@example.com or call 501-327-7788.