Academy Connects Teens With Local Businesses

Monthly meetings feature a different topic and different local business


The Youth Leadership Academy, organized by the Wake Forest Chamber Foundation, hosts monthly leadership meetings for area students. The program is year-long and is comprised of 10th-12th grade students. 

According to the Chamber’s website, the vision for the Leadership Academy is to give participants the opportunity to “assume leadership roles in our schools and to become more involved in civic, cultural, economic development and philanthropic organizations.”  

In order to join, students must submit an application, community references and interviews conducted by a selection committee. There is a 40 person limit to the Academy. 

Junior Olivia Thompson explains why she felt motivated to apply. 

I’m always striving to reach out in the community and get some local opportunities, whether that is for internships, jobs or connections. I also really like interacting with people,” Thompson said. 

 For a more personal experience, the Chamber has a multi-step application process. Junior Karina Patel explains the requirements for applicants. 

“You have to write a paper about why you want to join. Then, you may get a five minute interview to get to know you,” Patel said. 

Sophomore Blake Burns describes what members of the Leadership Academy have learned so far. 

“I met a lot of new people, and I learned a lot about (how) the different buildings in Wake Forest run and teamwork,” Burns said. 

The Leadership Academy meets once a month and focuses on a different topic each time. November was titled “Building Your Own Personal Brand.” Thompson shares what a typical meeting looks like for attendees. 

“They are always different but so fun. Ms.Tyson will take us on a minibus to a different location every time, but it’s always in the Wake Forest community. We get there, and start off with small talk, icebreakers and taking notes on our goals for that meeting. We have a speaker come, and we usually eat,” Thompson said. 

The meetings have left a positive impression on many of the students who committed to the Leadership Academy this year. Senior Carson Townsend explains what the program has done for him. 

“It really gets you out of your shell and teaches you life values,” Townsend said. 

Nov. 2, members went to Strike and Barrel for the “Building Your Own Personal Brand” meeting. There, they met the local business owner and got to see the newly renovated bowling alley. 

“It’s huge, almost tripled in size. It’s basically a big playground for adults,” Thompson said.

On top of the experience being enjoyable, it also gave the members a chance to make connections with a local business owner. 

 “We learned about teamwork and how to operate a business,” Burns said. 

For Olivia Thompson, the Leadership Academy has given her vital connections for her business. 

“I was really interested in photography. I met a lady who does photography. We talked over the phone. Now, I am going to be doing internships with her and have a little photography business,” Thompson said.