Students complete Youth Leadership program with 34 graduates in second class

Published 9:15 am Monday, May 15, 2023

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The Covington County Youth Leadership program held its second annual graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 3, at LBW Community College.

A total of 34 juniors from the six high schools in Covington County were selected for the 2022-2023 cohort, which was the second year of the program.

“Covington County is ripe with progressive, visionary leaders who want to develop and expose students to the opportunities available to them. The Youth Leadership Program is a great vehicle for doing just that, and more than 50 adults have poured into the group this year,” said Youth Leadership Program Coordinator Dr. Terri Dunn.

Andalusia High School graduates were Gracie Grissom, Brody Lee, Cape Merrell, Emmy Mixson, Ava Tomberlin, and Cindy Williams.

“I decided to join CCYL because I talked to a few members from the previous year who really enjoyed it. To me, graduating from the program is not near as important as all the amazing opportunities we have had. I wish it could last another year,” Merrell said.

Merrell, who served as this year’s chair, added that she took many things from her participation.

“I learned so much about myself throughout this program. I have recognized many of my strengths and weaknesses. I have learned how to interact with others and carry myself as well as leadership skills but also life lessons. I am so grateful for the support from this program and know in my future if I ever need anything, I can call any of the leaders of CCYL. I know they will do everything they can to help me.

She is the daughter of Walt and Hannah Merrell.

“I am looking forward to a great senior year, but I am most excited to be serving as captain of my cheer team. I hope we can win another state championship,” Merrell said.

Florala High School graduates were Alyssa Anderson, Caleb Chatman, Hannah Griffith, Marissa Jackson, Graylon McCall, Katee Prescott, and Ella Woodham.

Opp High School graduates were Presley Carnley, Reese Cauley, Liz Ann Jackson, Okianna Russell, Amberly Tillman, and Allie Wismer.

Pleasant Home School graduates were Briley Douglas, Emma Potter, Erica Ward, and Hailey Ward.

Red Level School graduates were Annabelle Ausbrooks, Mariah Crowell, Nicole Frank, Kennedy Lord, and Javen Poindexter.

Straughn High School graduates were Leah Adams, Grant Barnes, Hayden Blair, Ryan Cobb, Anna Driver, and Sylvia Worley.

Tomberlin was this year’s vice-chair and also enjoyed her time with the CCYL.

“I decided to join the Covington County Youth Leadership program to develop my skills in leading my peers. I wanted to learn more about my community and the various way s to get involved in leadership opportunities. Graduating from the program is a huge accomplishment to me. I feel fully equipped to graduate from Andalusia High School and go into the world ready to lead my community in a progressive way,” Tomberlin stated.

Like Merrell, she also had several takeaways from her involvement with this year’s program.

“I took away several connections, relationships, and speaking skills from CCYL. I learned what qualities I had already that I could work on to become a better leader.”

She is the daughter of John Tomberlin and Krystal Tomberlin.

“I am looking forward to being the oldest at my high school and am excited to lead my younger peers. I am grateful for the support I have received because it shows how much our community invests in young leaders,” Tomberlin said.

The students met once per month over the school year to participate in various leadership sessions such as: team building, local government, agriculture and industry, healthcare, economic development, state government, and etiquette and communication skills.

They also selected and worked together on a community service project. This year’s project was a letter writing campaign to recruit Chick-Fil-A to our county. The group collected more than 2,100 letters, pictures, and videos.

Merrell and Tomberlin spoke highly of the program and encouraged next year’s juniors to apply.

“I encourage everyone considering applying to the CCYL to definitely do so,” Merrell said. “I would strongly encourage any upcoming junior to apply. It is a great opportunity to learn more about yourself in a leadership perspective,” Tomberlin added.

For more information about the Covington County Youth Leadership program email