Program to focus on faith

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By Jennifer Caldwell

Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders.  

It is with that reality in mind that Mayor William Baird and his staff are working to secure programming that will provide Campbell County’s youth with training to help them realize their leadership potential.

Baird is currently working with the Emerald Youth Foundation in Knoxville to launch Just Lead, a program that will target area middle school students.

Like Boys and Girls Club programs, Just Lead is an after-school program. However, the Emerald Youth Foundation ministry provides a spiritual aspect.

“The thing that I like about it (Just Lead) is that it is a faith-based after-school program.  The goal is for churches to take a lead role so they can begin to form relationships with not just the children involved but the entire family as well,” Baird explained.

According to Baird, the program, which will be run by paid staff as well as volunteers, will work closely will school system personnel to ensure that the needs of each individual student will be addressed effectively.

“Program staff will coordinate with school teacher to develop a plan for each student.  The kids will have fun, but Just Lead isn’t just about recreational activities. It’s more scholastic,” Baird said.

The goal of the program is three-fold in that it hopes to raise up young people in environments where relationships with adults can be fostered by passing on faith as well as knowledge and skills while making sure they have a good time.

While Just Lead has historically been implemented in urban settings, the Emerald Youth Foundation is now branching out to include rural communities.

While Baird hopes that a program will be established in a number of locations across the county, he is realistic about the cost involved.

“Each program will require about $20,000, which will include the cost of the computers and computer programs needed,” Baird said.

Despite the financial obstacles, Baird feels that getting the program up and running by spring is not out of the realm of possibility.

“There are several funding opportunities available through the Emerald Youth Foundation, East Tennessee Foundation and local sources. The program will fulfill the safe haven portion of the Weed and Seed initiative we are working on.  Everything we are doing works in conjunction,” Baird said.

For more information on the Just Lead program contact Mayor William Baird’s office at 562-2526 or visit www.justlead.org.