OKLAHOMA CITY - At the Aloft Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City, youth are learning invaluable skills that will lead them into the future.
Former Oklahoma Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon spoke to a group of 25 teenagers as part of ASCEND, a year-long leadership program for inner city teens.
"So we wanted diverse groups of kids, ethnically, socioeconomically and then one of our tags lines is, ‘We want to inspire, equip and launch the next generation of leaders,’” Stephan Moore, executive director of Shiloh Camp, said.
Moore started the program as an extension of Shiloh Camp, a faith-based camp for at-risk youth in northeast Oklahoma City.
In its second year, he says the kids were ready for the next level of leadership.
"I believe everybody's a leader first and foremost. Sometimes, we just don't see that potential on the inside and so what we want to do is unlock that,” Moore said.
"One of the main things I learned was that leaders are always learning, they're constantly learning about what they could do better,” 15-year-old Jedidiah Fuller said.
This luncheon is just the start. They'll be at a retreat in Kingfisher for four days doing leadership training and hearing speakers, including U.S. Senator James Lankford.
"I just want to learn how to be a good follower as well as leader,” said Evelyn Smith, 17, a homeschooled student.
This is Fuller's second time in ASCEND. He's starting a t-shirt business and says he uses his leadership skills learned here to help him.
"Ways to conduct a meeting, business meetings and all different things like that, so there were a lot of people pouring into your life just really caring about you and caring about your success,” Fuller said.
Smith believes being a part of ASCEND will help her as she goes to college for a political science degree.
"Whether this is in the classroom as class president or you're the actual president, I think you need to be able to hear the people around you and represent them," Smith said.
Inspiring confidence for the next leaders of America.
If you’re interested in applying for next year’s program, click here.
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