Local student chosen for JrNYL

Published 5:24 pm Thursday, January 11, 2007

Question: Where can a junior high school kid go to learn things like leadership development and the impact of leadership traits such as character, communication, goal setting, problem solving, respect, and teamwork? Answer: Washington D.C. to a week long conference called Junior National Young Leaders Conference.

Only a very select few, the top 1% in the nation, are invited to go and fewer than that actually get to attend, mostly because of the cost.

Leadership traits class is just one of the first day’s activities. Day two includes group meetings and a field trip to any of the national, historical sites which are close to Washington. Day three can be equally as educational and thrilling with such discovery experiences as History One-on-One and Testing the Times. The week culminates with a session about making a difference at home. It will be a fascinating week for one of our own: Jessica Penton, pronounced “like a Pen weighs a Ton,” she says grinning beautifully. Jessica is a local junior high student at Pearl River County Junior High School.

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“The Congressional Youth Leadership Council (CYLC) seeks to identify students with demonstrated leadership potential and a history of academic achievement who will contribute to the strength and character of the Junior National Young Leaders Conference (JrNYLC) – outstanding individuals representing a variety of backgrounds and possessing a broad range of interests and goals. CYLC also hopes to attract the most mature and independent individuals possible within this age group,” states the official website at cylc.org/jrnylc. “The Junior National Young Leaders Conference (JrNYLC) helps scholars develop and sharpen their leadership skills by examining the leaders of the past and empowering them to make a positive social impact in their community and the world. Geared toward looking at leadership through a practical, everyday lens, JrNYLC incorporates a detailed examination of eight leadership traits and focuses on leaders in American history and social advocacy.”

Ms Myrna Rester, Jessica’s teacher, nominated her for this week of soul-stretching activities without telling her that she was being nominated so she wasn’t watching for any notifications. Her grandmother, Rose Reed, received the invitations in the mail and almost threw them away, thinking it was junk mail. After spying the official seals and crests, she opened them and swelled up with pride, for her granddaughter will represent 430 senators and congressmen, the State of Mississippi, Picayune and her school.

Academic excellence was one of the criteria for being chosen to go to Washington. Jessica has overcome a great academic challenge this past year. The Penton family was transported to Tennessee after Katrina and Jessica went to school there for six months. She struggled with her grades and this year has come out on top with a 99 average in several classes.

Two other students from PRCJH were also chosen but will not be able to attend the conference in March.

“I am very proud since I am going to be a representative of Mississippi and Picayune. My family is proud that I have this opportunity,” Jessica said shyly.

She is the daughter of Angela and Dwayne Penton, granddaughter of Rose Reed and Henry Allday and Martha Scheffield. She has three sisters, Ashley and Brooke Penton, and Tori Allday and one brother, Brett Allday.

A fund has been set up at Bank Plus if you would like to help her with the expenses for her trip. The VFW donated $300, American Legion donated $200 and Lamont Carr dontated $100. Dr. Dennis Smith of Poplarvill Dental Clinic donated $250.

Dr. Smith was also chosen to represent Mississippi at the Junior National Young Leaders Conference back when he was in junior high school.

The tuition has been covered but there are other expenses such as airfare and spending money.