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Students graduate from Generation Inspiration Leadership Academy
Program prepares teens for future
Gainesville High’s Loren Thomas gives a public speech Saturday morning as part of her Generation Inspiration Youth Community Leadership Academy graduation at the Beulah Rucker Museum and Education Center.
Another class of “Generation Inspiration” graduated Saturday, their sights more clearly set on the future.

For eight weeks, eight high school students sacrificed their Saturday mornings for lessons led by local professionals on business and budgeting, law and public safety, public speaking and other subjects to prepare for their next steps in life — college, then careers.

The organizers and supporters of the Beulah Rucker Foundation’s Youth Community Leadership Academy hope these same teens will return to Gainesville as leaders.

“It’s vital to have that next generation available for the community as early as possible,” said Generation Inspiration’s founder, Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell.

“It’s all about bringing a level of diversity to the leadership of Hall County.”

The candidates for the Beulah Rucker Foundation’s Youth Community Leadership Academy weren’t necessarily from the top of their class, but they weren’t near the bottom, either. Most were recommended by teachers and graduation coaches as good kids making good grades who had the potential for more.

The fifth graduating class of Generation Inspiration was the first to be completely organized and led by graduates of the academy. Class of 2006 alums Chikela Owens and Ethan Hopkins put the programs together, enlisting guest speakers and cutting through red tape to create leadership lessons that teens could digest.

Owens, a 20-year-old junior at Brenau University, said the academy taught her how to manage a budget and secure loans after leaving home for college. This year she saw a new class learning the same lessons.

“I really see a lot of them taking something from all eight weeks, and not only becoming a better person, but being a leader wherever they go, and standing up for what’s right,” Owens said.

Saturday’s keynote speaker, state Sen. Lee Hawkins, praised the graduates for taking initiative in their lives.

“You are on the right track,” said Hawkins, who served as a guest facilitator for the academy two years ago.

“You will be successful because of your attitude.”

The four girls who accepted their certificates Saturday have varied goals, from a career in childhood education to aspirations to become an attorney.

Loren Thomas, a Gainesville High School student-athlete, wants to be a sports trainer.

“You would get to meet a lot of cute guys,” she joked.

“But the bad part is you have to touch their stinky feet.”

Shaleacia Shipman said she was skeptical of the academy at first, but figured it would be something to do on a Saturday.

“It turned out to be much more than a Saturday activity,” she said.

“It turned out to be a great thing.”
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