"As I reflect back upon our inaugural year of the Youth Leadership Highlands program, I am very humbled. We have been gifted with an incredible group of students and a community that embraced our efforts in a great way. A program like this would not be possible without the support of so many people. It makes it easy to teach the students how to give back when so many people are giving of themselves for our YLH program. I can't say thank you enough to everyone that made this program happen," said Tracee Smoak, Mason G. Smoak board of director.
Click on a YLH DAY to Learn More
Students spent the day learning about Highlands County business and the health care system as part of Mason G. Smoak Foundation’s Youth Leadership Highlands program. This program exposed students to fundamental business concepts and provided the students the opportunity to experience the concepts firsthand. In this picture, students visit with representatives from Samaritans Touch for educational mini-workshops.
Seventeen high school students spent the day learning about Highlands County Government & Education. The day began at Highlands County Courthouse where several speakers meet with the students about various courthouse responsibilities and functions. For several students, a highlight of the day was a supervised/guided tour of the jail – learning firsthand about our criminal justice system. Students also enjoyed demonstrations from the K-9 and S.W.A.T. units. At South Florida Community College, the Dean of Applied Sciences & Technologies, Kevin Brown, led the students on a tour of the Health and Science Education Center, dental education clinic, public service academy, and select trade and industry programs.
Youth Leadership Highlands Social Services day was a huge success. In the morning, students got to know each other with some icebreakers, and then they viewed a "dedication of the home" ceremony at Highlands Habitat for Humanity-Mason's ridge. Edward and Anne Smoak, who were also present at the dedication, sponsored the home. New Testament Mission allowed students to prepare and serve a meal for the hungry. In the evening, Jeff Roth of the Children’s Advocacy Center, gave the students a tour of their facilities, led them through some team building exercises, and taught them about Highlands County social services.
Youth Leadership Highlands Economic Development & Tourism day focused on local business and industry. The students toured Everglades’s assembly plant, WWII private plane collection at Sebring Airport, listened to a presentation by the Highlands County Director of Tourism, John Sherlacher, and a tour of Sebring International Raceway where we met famous racer Bobby Rahal. As the day came to a close, one YLH student stated, "I learned that Highlands County isn't just a little unknown area in the world, 100's of thousands of people from all over come..."
The Youth Leadership Highlands program emphasized the importance of Highlands County agricultural and environmental industries during a full day of leadership education and training. Several different private and public organizations took part of educating a class of 17 local high school sophomore students about different aspects of Highlands County agriculture and environment. The students picked strawberries and learned about plant cycles and packing at Atlantic Blue Operations, they learned about Florida diary and cattle industries while touring Smoak Ranch in Southern Highlands County, and studied the caladium business at Happiness Farms in Lake Placid.