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Maggie L. Walker Youth Leadership Institute underway

7/16/2013, 10:17 a.m.

nspired by the vision of Maggie L. Walker, one of Richmond’s leading African American voices at the turn of the last century, a group of high school-aged students is spending part of the summer working to develop leadership skills and a spirit of community service that Walker exemplified. The National Park Service, in cooperation with the African American Experience Fund and the Future of Richmond’s Past, sponsored the fourth annual Maggie L. Walker Summer Youth Leadership Institute from July 1 to July 11, at the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site.

The Leadership Institute provides a two week experiential program for youth interested in developing leadership skills and participating in community service projects. It is open at no cost to applicants ages 14 through 18 in the greater Richmond area and this year was limited to fourteen participants. A closing ceremony will be held the morning of Saturday, July 13, where the students will be recognized for their accomplishments. Later in the day, the site will host a series of programs to commemorate the 149th birthday of Walker.

The Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site nots that it is dedicated to preserving the life and legacy of America's first African American woman to charter a bank and serve as its president. Born during the last year of the American Civil War, Walker lived in Richmond her entire life—more than 70 years—and as a fully engaged citizen she courageously challenged racial discrimination and gender bias through her work with the Independent Order of St. Luke, and other local and national organizations. Her earliest leadership role in the Order was as Matron of the Juvenile Department, helping young people learn self-discipline, self-help, and selflessness, and grooming young leaders who knew the importance of helping others and their communities.

The Leadership Institute’s activities embrace Walker’s example, note institute organizers. They strive to inspire participants to be future leaders by cultivating their sense of pride in heritage, by focusing on the habits of effective teens, by exposing them to examples of meaningful leadership, and by helping them create a personal plan for the future. Activities for this year’s Institute included a visit to the historic Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, and a field trip to the Moton Museum in Farmville, which commemorates the 1951 strike by African American students protesting unequal conditions in Prince Edward County Schools. On the final day of the Institute, the group will visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC and the Martin Luther King Memorial—aligning with the Park Service theme for the Civil War Sesquicentennial: ‘Civil War through Civil Rights.”

“All of these activities and sites, which are closely aligned with Maggie Walker’s own story, give the kids opportunities to learn about and discuss leadership in all of its forms—from the national to the local level,” said Ajena Rogers, site supervisor at Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site. “This is important as they begin to consider their own leadership roles, whether it be within their own families, their communities, or beyond--just as Maggie Walker envisioned for young people in her own time. It’s been a thrill to see the students think of themselves in this way.”