Since 2019, the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce has partnered with local business and community leaders to prepare rising Aiken County ninth graders for life after high school.
The Chamber is currently accepting applications for its 2023 Junior Leadership Academy. During the two-week program, which will meet in June, students will participate in a variety of activities, such as college and career exploration, a community service project, and leadership training.
“It’s helping them with the transition from middle school to high school, which is stressful, I can imagine,” said Chamber President and CEO, Terra Carroll. “We help them with their social skills and interacting with adults.”
Carroll said participants also learn effective public speaking skills and have numerous opportunities to present information to their peers, parents, and community leaders. For example, each participant is required to speak at graduation.
“Usually by graduation, their whole personality changes,” she said.
Carroll said students tend to be much more confident and articulate by the end of the program. Graduates of this year’s program will have the option to participate in job shadowing next year and internships the following year.
Members of the North Augusta Chamber’s Education & Workforce Council, who represent several local businesses, including SRP Federal Credit Union, Bridgestone, and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, help with running the program.
Junior Leadership Academy is open to public, private, and homeschooled students, and the cost to participate is $50. To be accepted, students are required to submit an application with references and successfully complete a panel interview. She said they used to cap the program at 10 participants, but this year, they have space for 15 or 16.
“It’s for students who are really interested, not for those whose parents are making them do it,” Carroll said.
Each day begins and ends at the Chamber, but they visit various officials, including North Augusta’s mayor and Aiken County business leaders throughout the day.
The application deadline has been extended to next Friday, April 21. For more information or to submit an application, visit northaugustachamber.org/the-foundation/junior-leadership-academy/.