Orange County teaches students to lead

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  • | 6:18 a.m. March 31, 2016
Photo: Courtesy of Orange County - Winter Park High Schoolers learned about county government at the fifth Annual Youth Leadership Conference at Rollins College.
Photo: Courtesy of Orange County - Winter Park High Schoolers learned about county government at the fifth Annual Youth Leadership Conference at Rollins College.
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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Learning to lead

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs’ recently hosted her fifth Annual Youth Leadership Conference at Rollins College in Winter Park. The conference welcomed more than 200 high school student leaders from 23 Orange County Public Schools and the non-profit teen group Family & Friends United Inc.

The half-day event engaged students and taught them about the functions of local county government, how to better participate in community initiatives and provided insight on how to strengthen their leadership skills.

“This conference showcases the many facets of local government and how our students can get involved at any age,” Mayor Jacobs said. “From meeting with government and community leaders to participating in mock hearings, students learned about their local government and how decisions are made in a real-world setting.”

Isaiah Rutledge, an 18-year-old senior at Boone High School, participated as a witness in a mock Code Enforcement Board case involving the alleged discovery of illegal substances at a local residence.

“I thoroughly enjoyed Mayor Jacobs’ Youth Leadership Conference,” Rutledge said. “I learned that Code Enforcement is a multi-faceted job and they have to deal with very serious issues and crimes. I'm excited about getting involved in my local government. Now that I am registered to vote this year, I want to volunteer as a poll worker in the local elections.”

Students also participated in a Youth Issues Forum led by Mayor Jacobs, Orange County School Board Vice Chairman Nancy Robbinson and OCPS Chief Academic Officer Dr. Scott Fritz, where they discussed topics of importance to this generation. The top issues of concern that were presented included literacy, the effects of standardized testing, cyber bullying and negative peer pressure.

“The choices will be yours, and the decisions about using our resources and tax dollars to create a community in which you will want to live and raise your families will be yours one day,” Mayor Jacobs said during her closing remarks. “This generation is so much more aware of how government can affect your lives and how you can make a difference in your community.”

Mayor Jacobs founded the Youth Leadership Conference in 2011 to connect students with their local government. About 1,000 local student leaders have participated in the program since its inception.

Keeping student athletes safe

All 19 high schools in Orange County are recipients of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Safe Sports School award. The award champions safety and recognizes secondary schools that provide safe environments for student athletes. The award reinforces the importance of providing the best level of care, injury prevention and treatment.

In order to achieve Safe Sport School status, as all 19 high schools did, athletic programs must do the following:

Create a positive athletic health care administrative system

Provide or coordinate pre-participation physical examinations

Promote safe and appropriate practice and competition facilities

Plan for selection, fit function and proper maintenance of athletic equipment

Provide a permanent, appropriately equipped area to evaluate and treat injured athletes

Develop injury and illness prevention strategies, including protocols for environmental conditions

Provide or facilitate injury intervention

Create and rehearse a venue-specific Emergency Action Plan

Provide or facilitate psychosocial consultation and nutritional counseling/education

Be sure athletes and parents are educated of the potential benefits and risks in sports as well as their responsibilities

“Orange County Public Schools is honored to receive this 1st Team recognition from NATA, and we remain committed to keeping our student athletes safe during practices and games so they can accomplish their own goals of great competition, winning records, fair sportsmanship and good health. Our goal is to lead our athletics program to the highest safety standards for our players,” said James Larsen, executive area director, athletics.

For more information about NATA, visit