Marion County Schools, Chamber partner to create 'Young Leaders'

Feb. 21—FAIRMONT — Marion County may be seeing the return of a dormant youth leadership program.

Over a decade ago, the Marion County Chamber of Commerce held its last Youth Leadership class, a civic engagement program similar to Leadership Marion, but for high school students.

Monday night, the Marion County School Board heard a presentation from Chamber representatives asking for the board's support to restart the program.

"A lot has changed in the last 10 years, so we've had to do some tweaking," Chamber President Tina Shaw said. "We're here to ask for your permission to take these students one day a month and also to ask for financial support."

The new and improved program — renamed Young Leaders — would take eight or nine rising sophomores from each of the county's three high schools and take them out of school for one day a month to meet leaders around the county and learn how government works.

The students would be bused around by the Fairmont-Marion Transit Authority just like the adults in Leadership Marion are.

Danielle McDaniel, the communication and events coordinator for the Chamber, is a member of the 40th class of Leadership Marion and she was inspired to create a program similar to what she's participating in specifically for high schoolers.

McDaniel did some research on the discontinued program and rebuilt it for the modern day.

"I feel like the children need to be exposed to the potential that's right here where they already live," McDaniel said. "I think they need to be out, see their community and see the needs of their community."

In addition to permission begin the program, the Chamber also requested financial backing. Later into Monday's agenda, the board approved an item that funded half of the budget of the Young Leaders program in a total amount of $3,762.50.

The original program was supported by the board's current vice president, Tom Dragich, who voiced his support for the reborn program.

"Anything we do to promote youth leadership is great — we had a very good program before, but senior projects kind of threw a monkey wrench into that," Dragich said. "But I'm glad to see it's coming back."

Board member George Boyles said his daughter went through a similar program when she was a student at East Fairmont High and he's in total support of bringing something similar back for the students.

"[My daughter] still talks about that program to this day and some of the things they were exposed to," Boyles said. "It's really helped her in her vocation as a college professor, so I think it's a wonderful program. Any type of volunteer support you need I'd be happy to help."

In other business:

* The board honored faculty and staff from the Marion County Technical Center as part of Career Technical Education Month.

* East Fairmont High Principal Mary Lynn Westfall gave the board an update on her students' success.

* The board held a second reading for several new policies, most of which are already required by the state.

The board's next meeting will be held on Monday, March 6 at 6 p.m. in the central office.

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at