The mission of Youth Leadership Vestavia Hills (YLVH) is to train students to become leaders who have and show respect for all; who recognize the common ground we share in our humanity, our community, our school; and who accept and celebrate our differences as strengths in the social fabric of our community. These students are leaders who learn to walk in each other’s shoes and learn from the experience. The YLVH tagline reads: Be the Difference. YLVH is an important vehicle in making a big school feel small, a place where every single student feels a sense of belonging, acceptance, and importance.
“Leadership comes from integrity – that you do whatever you ask others to do. I think there are non-obvious ways to lead. Just by providing a good example as a parent, a friend, a neighbor makes it possible for other people to see better ways to do things. Leadership does not need to be a dramatic, fist in the air and trumpets blaring activity.” – Scott Berkun, Best-Selling Author and Speaker
This concept is exactly what we try to teach our students… all have the potential to be leaders so choose to be a good one. Lead everyday wherever you are… in the classroom, on the field, in the community. How you interact and treat others is the foundation for all the rest.
Initial Training Retreats
YLVH is a concept that was started by a small group of adults who were a part of Leadership Vestavia Hills in 2005. In 2008-2009, the high school started a leadership class and the project continued to expand from there. It starts with students applying for the program at the end of their freshman year. They are required to attend a training retreat during the summer where they participate in ropes courses, small group discussions, games and team building activities. It is a unique and intensely powerful experience. We more than 500 students at the high school who have completed this training – plenty for critical mass to change the climate of a school.
When they are sophomores, YLVH students are grouped together in common study periods which is a half hour each day to reinforce the leadership concepts that they learn.
Then those students go into freshman studies every Friday and act as mentors in that small groups classroom setting. They talk about everything from pep rallies and study habits to current issues and problems that they share as teens.
The Leadership Class
When they are juniors and seniors, they can elect to take the class and/or serve on various committees. There is always work to be done and opportunities for students to be assertive and accountable. The class trains the student for Bridges (listed below), conducts common book studies, and deals with current event and issues of the day.
Bridges is an anchor piece for the program that deals specifically with the subject of bullying. We conduct intensive training with our YLVH students then take them to our two middle schools to bravely share about their own experiences with bullies. They share personal stories about times when they were bullied or even when they were the bully. The experience always proves to be empowering for the younger students as they realize that they are not alone. It is a message of hope for these kids that it is a tough stage of growing up but you can and will make it through.
New Student Committee
This student-led committee pairs each new student at VHHS with two YLVH students who have something in common. It is the job of the YLVH students to help the new student feel welcome and comfortable and to assimilate to his/her new environment more quickly. This particular program has received rave reviews from new students who cite it as the single most helpful part of being new.
Rebel Connection is an afternoon of intentional mixing and games designed to bring together each new freshman class. With two middle schools feeding into the high school, this program helps the students to feel more comfortable with their new classmates and to get a glimpse of who may be sitting next to them on the first day of school.
Advanced Leadership Training
During the course of the year, various professionals present optional workshops for the students. These range from personality inventories to team building to interviewing to case studies in leadership.
Service Projects/Relay for Life
YLVH is the lead organization in the planning and execution of Relay for Life, a community-wide fundraising event for cancer. This is a highly successful and massive undertaking with countless leadership opportunities through competition teams.
Sadie Hawkins Dance
YLVH has sponsored the Sadie Hawkins Dance for the past several years with proceeds going to support the programs of YLVH.
For more information, contact Kelly Bottcher (205) 907-0778 or Kym Prewitt (205) 807-0566.