Local students graduate from Michigan Youth Leadership Academy

Sixteen students from Mecosta and Osceola counties graduated from the Michigan Youth Leadership Academy on Thursday. The program, hosted by the Michigan State Police with help from local law enforcement, provided participants with leadership and life skills. (Pioneer photo/Taylor Fussman)

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES — Being a leader is no easy task, but several area students are learning the skills necessary for taking on this role.

On Thursday, 16 local 14- and 15-year-old boys currently attending school within Mecosta and Osceola counties graduated from the Michigan Youth Leadership Academy, a program hosted by the Michigan State Police (MSP) with the help of local law enforcement.

Brian Lucha, community service trooper with the MSP Mount Pleasant Post, explained the academy, which began on Sunday, July 7, and ended on Thursday, taught the participants essential leadership and life skills.

During the graduation ceremony at the Mecosta Osceola Intermediate School District Career Center, 1st Lt. Kevin Caldwell with the MSP said the students rose to the challenges presented to them during the academy and excelled throughout the week.

He added along with physical activity training, the boys participated in classes to teach them interview skills, basic first aid, water safety, public speaking, scuba diving and more.

“None of this would have been possible without the dedication of their mentors,” Caldwell noted, thanking the members of the MSP, Big Rapids Department of Public Safety and Mecosta County Sheriff’s Office who gave their time to teach the boys these new skills.

Among the graduates on Thursday was Noah Stanley, who was voted to represent the class during the ceremony.

Noah Stanley was chosen by his peers to represent the graduating class of the Michigan Youth Leadership Academy on Thursday at the Mecosta Osceola Intermediate School District Career Center. (Pioneer photo/Taylor Fussman)

“Overall, we had a tough, but fun week,” he said. “We learned a lot and even made some new friends.”

Stanley added he was grateful to the officers for pushing them and teaching them not only about physical strength, but mental strength as well.

One aspect of being a good leader the Michigan Youth Leadership Academy aimed to dispel in the participants was the idea of community service.

To accomplish this goal, the soon-to-be graduates stopped by Hemlock Park in Big Rapids Thursday morning to pick up garbage along the park’s walkways.

“Part of the focus of the academy has been on how the boys can take their leadership skills and bring them back to the community,” BRDPS officer Lorne Juday said.

He said the program was a great opportunity for the students to get out of their comfort zone and learn something new.

“The boys have more confidence and pride in what they’ve been able to accomplish, both as individuals and a team,” Juday said.

The Michigan Youth Leadership Academy is supported by the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant, which is administered by the MSP and awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, a component of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

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Posted by Taylor Fussman

Taylor is the cops and courts reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review newspapers. She can be reached at (231) 592-8362 or by email at tfussman@pioneergroup.com.

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