In the Spring of 2021, a vision came to fruition. Superintendent Marcus Chambers and Commissioner Mel Ponder partnered together to develop the Okaloosa Youth Leadership Council (YLC) which consists of Juniors and Seniors from each high school in the district. These students were nominated to be on the council by their principals. The council includes 11 students who meet once a month to discuss topics that are important to them and changes they would like to see not only in the school district but also in the county.
Two school-related topics the YLC came up with are establishing suicide prevention programs in more schools and providing financial literacy courses for high school students. HOPE Squad is an organization that focuses on peer-to-peer suicide prevention. According to Mr. Chambers, HOPE Squad will be in all secondary schools by the end of this school year with plans to introduce it to primary schools the following school year. This will be possible thanks to the recent grant that United for a Good Cause, the organization that sponsors HOPE Squad in our schools, received from IMPACT 100. Superintendent Chambers expressed his gratitude to United for a Good Cause and IMPACT 100. “Support for the ongoing mental and emotional health of our students is a critical component to ensure their continued academic success. We have significantly increased resources in this area, and HOPE Squad is a valuable component of our efforts.”
There are currently two high schools in the Okaloosa County School District that offer financial literacy courses for students to take. Plans are underway to offer financial literacy in all high schools at the recommendation of this student group. Commissioner Ponder said, “It is such a great honor to have the support from my fellow commissioners to partner with Superintendent Chambers and the Okaloosa County School District with our outstanding Youth Leadership Council. It is so encouraging to bring this amazing group of current and future leaders together in a setting that adds to their leadership, strengthens their bond to work together, and challenges them to submit policy and project ideas to benefit both the District and County alike.”