By Morgan Bryce
Equipping area youth to become future leaders is the goal of the “Y.E.S. (Young Empowered Students), I Run Opelika Leadership Class,” which is slated to begin in August.
Organized by Opelika native and 20-Under-40 member Andre Marcus, the nine-month course is open to Opelika City Schools students and will provide them with opportunities to learn and engage with their community.
“The ultimate goal of this program is to give these kids exposure to our city, exposure to the way our city runs and give them the empowerment and direction needed toward a career path,” Marcus said.
Similar in format to the Opelika Chamber of Commerce’s “20-Under-40” Program and “Leadership Lee County,” Marcus said course participants will be given bimonthly, on-site mentoring/training sessions through partnerships he has made with the City of Opelika, Opelika Police Department, Southern Union State Community College and more.
“For example, I have doctors and VCOM (Auburn University’s Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine) students that are going to lead a two-hour discussion on health care. Also, I have Mallory Hagan (Democratic candidate for Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District) slated to speak one session about leadership and opportunities for youth,” Marcus said.
According to Marcus, another important aspect of the program is the instilling of civic pride, a way of preparing Opelika youth to be the city’s future leaders.
“I think it’s important to have the youth involved in the input of our city because our youth, our high schoolers, are the future of our city. I’ve lived here for 25 years, and I’ve learned so much about our city, things I didn’t even know, through being a member of 20-Under-40,” Marcus said. “And I think that knowledge will be even more beneficial for 15,16 and 17-year-old kids. It’ll help them and the city grow.”
Part of a larger umbrella program called “I Run My City” which recently became a 501c3 nonprofit, Marcus said he plans to expand the program into Loachapoka and Auburn in spring 2019.
“At the end of the day, I hope that this program will enable kids to stay here in the area or come back one day and be able to give back and pave the way for future generations,” Marcus said.
For more information, visit www.irunopelika.com or their Facebook page. Because of strong community interest, Marcus said they have expanded the number of openings to 60. Applications will be available May 7 once the “Y.E.S., I Run Opelika” portion of the website goes live.