The Grayson Chamber of Commerce plans to develop a youth leadership program and is modeling it after the Ashland Alliance’s existing program.

The program would bring a select group of high school juniors together for monthly, day-long meetings to explore the inner workings of their community.

The chamber’s hope is that doing so would cement the relationship between them and their community, and that they would choose to stay there to pursue careers and raise families after college, said chamber president Michelle Wilhoit.

“We think this will greatly impact the future of Grayson,” Wilhoit said. “We have so many now who are leaving the area.”

Chamber members met with Carter County school officials Monday to rough out a format for the program, which Wilhoit said should be in shape to launch in the next school year.

The Ashland Alliance’s program is similar to the adult program Leadership Tri-State, said coordinator Missy McCalvin. Participants are chosen from juniors who apply from the seven high schools in Boyd and Greenup counties. The monthly gatherings bring them face to face with the inner working of area business, industry, government, arts and philanthropy.

They receive up-close and behind the scenes looks at area institutions, such as the Paramount Arts Center, government offices like the county courthouse, and non-profit organizations like Community Hospice.

The Alliance program puts participants in touch with ways they want to change their community, said Kathryn Wilhoit, a Russell High School senior who was one of last year’s participants. “Mine was to change attitudes so people would be more service-oriented,” she said.

Although there is a fee for participants, the Ashland program is donation-driven, McCalvin said, and students who can’t afford the fee don’t have to pay.” We find a way,” she said.

The Carter program would follow that model, Wilhoit said. The Grayson First National Bank is seeding the program with $1,000; organizers hope other local businesses, organizations and individuals will follow suit.

The program is still in the early planning stages so the number of students who will participate each year is undetermined. The Ashland program takes 40 per year.

Wilhoit opened the planning process with East Carter High School in mind, and invited East Carter principal Larry Kiser to the meeting, but said the Grayson Chamber would be open to including West Carter if the Olive Hill Chamber of Commerce wants to get involved.

“This sounds like a great opportunity to explore different job opportunities before going to college and choosing a major,” Kiser said.

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