Fort Smith Chamber launches Fort Smith Junior Leadership Academy

by Talk Business and Politics ([email protected]) 235 views 

The Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce unveiled a new leadership program targeted toward high school students, with incoming Chamber Board Chairman Sam T. Sicard saying the program will help show students how they “can contribute to our community” and have “fulfilling careers” in the region.

Modeled after the existing Leadership Fort Smith Program, which is now managed by the chamber, the Fort Smith Junior Leadership Academy was announced at Thursday’s (Oct. 22) annual chamber banquet. Sicard, who is president and CEO of Fort Smith-based First Bank Corp., said one of the program goals is to show students “they can make a real difference in our community.”

According to a chamber document, the purpose of the program is: “To develop high school students in community issues, business ethics, social services, business industry, healthcare, government, and quality of place in and around Fort Smith. This program will also focus on innovation, project-based learning, group collaboration and hands-on practical business environments.”

Sicard thanked Fort Smith Public School Superintendent Benny Gooden and his staff for being instrumental in bringing the program together. Chamber officials said the program will ultimately be open to students in school districts outside Fort Smith.

As an incentive to apply and participate in the program, the chamber is awarding one $1,000 scholarship to program graduates who apply for the benefit. The scholarship will be awarded at the program’s graduation ceremony.

The first 25-member class will be selected in the spring and begin the first 9-month course in the 2016 school year. Five program goals were outlined by the chamber. They are:
• To prepare students for future careers;
• To prepare high school students for future leadership roles in the community;
• Encourage student to recognize their own potential and develop their leadership skills;
• Challenge the students to apply their leadership skills through interactions with
community leaders, decision makers, and peers from other schools; and
• Create and nurture potential young leaders in our community.

Requirements to be in the program include:
• Must be a sophomore, junior or senior in high school in Fort Smith;
• Each participant must hold a GPA of at least 2.0, have school and parent/legal guardian permission to participate;
• Attend orientation, retreat, and all scheduled classes (May miss up to two classes with school excused absence); and
• Each student will be responsible for $50 of the $400 tuition to show their personal
commitment. (The other $350 will be obtained by local business sponsorships for that student, which will be handled by the chamber.)

The program, which has the students meeting one day a month, includes sessions on higher education, vocational training, economic development, community volunteer work, and career development.

Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith chamber, said the program also supports the concept behind the Future School of Fort Smith, which is on track to be an open enrollment charter school opening in the city in 2016. A state panel on Oct. 14 approved the charter school’s application, with consideration by the State Board of Education set for November.

“This gives us a chance to get these kids, who come from all across the (grading) bell curve, to come together and to connect with everything we have available in the region,” Allen told The City Wire.

Part of the effort to market the program includes a video (available below) styled as a movie trailer that will be available to students at Northside and Southside High Schools in Fort Smith. Also, the video and details about the program will in the near future be found on the chamber’s website.