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Students collect valuable business advice despite modifications in LLYP


In the opening session of the 2020-21 Leadership Lexington Youth Program, students absorbed a key message from the day’s professionals: “Do what drives you – what makes your heart happy – in your career,” said Quisha Ray, HR manager at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky and a member of the LLYP planning team. “If you really want to cook or open a coffee shop, step out there and make it happen!”

LLYP, an eight-month program for high school juniors, offers monthly gatherings to network with local leaders and explore diverse issues, career fields, and business opportunities. First up was Local Lex Day, with representatives from North Lime Coffee & Donuts, Wallace Station restaurant, Magic Beans Coffee Roasters and A Cup of Commonwealth, and The League. Among highlights were Chef Ouita Michel’s palate-testing experience and sports entrepreneur Ted Simpson’s strategy to develop a recreation league for adults. “A lot of great ideas start with a passion, but you can’t go at it alone,” Simpson advised the students. “The people you surround yourself with will always be your biggest asset.”

The chef’s success story inspired Tomias Rushin of Carter G. Woodson Academy. “She didn’t have her life sorted out but went with the flow of things. If you love what you do, stay with it,” he recalled, admiring Michel’s resolve and her pivots during the pandemic. Sophie Agbekpenou of Lafayette High School also enjoyed the morning activity with North Lime. “We got to create our own donut business and pitch our ideas,” she said. “We learned different strategies to advocate for our plan and learned to rely on our team.”

The team-building exercises look different this year because of COVID-19 restrictions. To help with social distancing, LLYP accepted only 25 students for this class instead of the usual four dozen. Chairs are spaced far apart, and everyone wears a mask. Some teens opt to participate virtually, tuning in at the Junior Achievement of the Bluegrass facility off Spurr Road. That is a significant change – not visiting businesses or touring spaces around town. Still, LLYP will provide valuable experience. 

“I wanted to join because of the real emphasis on community. That’s my passion – I want to give back to my community,” Sophie said. Tomias also had no hesitation. “When I saw how LLYP works, I applied. This could be good for me if I’m considered a leader by my peers and teachers,” he said.

Each session offers guest speakers, interactive demonstrations, Q&A, and time to get to know peers from other schools. The first Wednesday, for instance, students played kickball in the grassy field next to the former Linlee Elementary building (JA’s home) and capped the day with an ice cream social. The tentative schedule includes Health & Human Services Day (Nov. 4), Government & Public Safety Day (Dec. 2), Arts & Media Day (Jan. 6), Ambassadors for Change Day (Feb. 3), Higher Education & Career Development Day (March 3), and a graduation luncheon (April 7). For more on LLYP, visit the JA website, email program manager Natalie Appel, or call (859) 219-2423. 

Class roster

  • From Bryan Station High School: James Grant, Larae Jackson, and Corinne Sharrard;
  • Carter G. Woodson Academy: Tomias Rushin;
  • Frederick Douglass High School: Kendall Davis;
  • Henry Clay High School: Mihail Mihaylov;
  • Lafayette High School: Sophie Agbekpenou, Liliane Rose Elayi, Riley Gossage, Manya Tiwari, Pragya Upreti, and Audrey Wirasakti;
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar High School: Yann Philipps Galindo, Sarah Ming, McKenna Sun, and Emily Xiao;
  • STEAM Academy: Maeve Whitlock; and
  • Tates Creek High School: Emma Askren.

In addition to these FCPS students, the group includes one from Trinity Christian Academy, one from Lexington Catholic High School, two from Sayre School, and three from Lexington Christian Academy.

(Posted Oct. 9, 2020)

Tammy L. Lane, district webmaster
(859) 381-4236