February 28, 2001 | By: Laura Skillman

Lyon County Extension Homemakers are working to motivate adults to motivate youth to become leaders.

"You've got to start training kids when they are young and it takes adults promoting kids and that's what we are trying to do," said Laura Wilson, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences in Lyon County.

The idea started with Wilson and then the county Homemakers expanded from there. The program was the organization's eighth annual leadership seminar and was funded in part by a grant from the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association.

"If we don't start developing youth leaders then all the sudden our community will look up and we won't have people to serve on school based decision making councils; we won't have people to serve in leadership roles at the women's club; we won't have someone who agrees to serve as president of the PTO; and then, of course, you have elected officials also," Wilson said.

Among the seminar's speakers was Carroll Wadlington, principal of Lyon County Junior/Senior High School.

"The very first thing you have to do is tell adults that our youth are our greatest asset and that it is something we must do to prepare them for the future," he said. "It is not our job to tell them but to guide them through it. We all make mistakes but there's a tremendous amount of potential out there.

"Sometimes we find diamonds in the rough that everyone expects to be a natural born leader but a lot of times there are these other kids out there we must beat the bushes for also," he said. "Sometimes all it takes is telling them that ‘I believe in you, that you have a tremendous amount of potential.' Sometimes all it takes is a little pat on the back but sometimes it takes a little bit of a shove also."

Also on the program was Lee Wilson, a Lyon County High senior, and national president of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America. Lee is Laura Wilson's son.

"We wanted to take advantage of having a young person with a national office within his organization and wanted to hear about the combined effort of the school administration and his advisor," Laura Wilson said.

But the seminar wasn't simply about how to get young people to excel at a national level, she said.

"We are talking about getting kids to try to strive to develop leadership skills," Wilson said. "Everyone's not going to want to go to the national level."

Lee Wilson said motivators in his life began with his parents but they also included his elder siblings who were leaders in organizations during their high school years. Another adult who Wilson said provided guidance for him was Judy Swinny, his FCCLA advisor, who was also a seminar speaker.

The high school senior also noted that there is a difference in being motivated and being forced into leadership positions.

"You hear about kids being burned out," he said. "That's because they were forced into roles. I was never told I had to do it."

Swinny said over the years, she can remember the adults who motivated her and has strived to be a good motivator to young people. She described keys that are vital to motivating students.

"Help them see the value in the activity," she said. "Help them set goals. Know the student. Be available when you are needed and offer praise.

"I think if you believe in what you do and believe in young people, you will be a successful motivator," Swinny said.


Laura Wilson, (270) 388-2341