Local leadership

Four students participate in program to strengthen community


Hannah Backus

Teen Leadership member Neely Wood writes a goal for the month of December to be a better role model during a meeting. Wood, a senior, is one of four Canyon High students who meet monthly with members form other schools through Zoom. Wood said the program, which is offered across the Texas Panhandle, teaches students leadership skills and allows them to take part in and change their community.

The crunching of caramel popcorn fills the brightly lit room as four students log in to a Zoom meeting. Thoughts of previous years’ get-togethers float as reminders of COVID-19 regulations are amidst. Members sit, spaced 6 feet apart in chairs of velvety blue as the chat fills with text. Garbled speech overlaps as the site lags and the meeting commences. 

Seniors Neely Wood, Blake Loria, Carissa Love and junior Jacob Roberts are a part of the 2020-2021 Teen Leadership program, and meet one day every month, joining other schools through Zoom. Teen Leadership is an organization that provides students opportunities to serve their communities and learn leadership skills. The organization was founded in 1997 as a high school version of Leadership Amarillo and Canyon, the adult organization founded in 1981.

“Our mission is to educate high school students on leadership skills and to plant seeds of desire to serve in their community,” said Lisa Blake, Teen Leadership Amarillo and Canyon executive director. “We spend a great deal of time training them, developing their confidence, teaching them about our community and providing opportunities to serve.”

As an individual, it helps me be not so one-sided, to put myself in their position, see their views and really work together as a whole.”

— Neely Wood, 12

Students from other high schools in the Texas Panhandle area participate in the meetings, including Caprock High, Tascosa High, Palo Duro High and Highland Park High.

“Teen leadership truly helps you not only in high school, but college, into your job and one day into your career,” Wood said. “It helps you work with other people, not just people you’re with every day, but a company or an organization. As an individual, it helps me be not so one-sided, to put myself in their position, see their views and really work together as a whole.” 

Meetings are usually held the second Wednesday of the month. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the meetings for this fall were conducted via Zoom and were shorter than they had been previously.

“Usually, we would all meet in person, spend a full day together and get to know each other,” Wood said. “This year, it’s all virtual. So we have to meet virtually, we all have to wear a mask and it’s different. It’s not social interaction.”

Four students from each school are allowed to participate in the program.  College and career counselor Cory Gropp and other members of the Learning Commons staff work together to nominate students they think would be a good fit for the organization, Gropp said.

It makes them aware of what’s going on in the community, not just in Canyon.”

— Cory Gropp, college and career counselor

“I think leadership helps students build their confidence,” Gropp said. “It helps them become better leaders within the classroom, between their classmates or the community. It makes them aware of what’s going on in the community, not just in Canyon.” 

The students meet with members of the organization, as well as West Texas A&M University members and local leaders. Wood said the guests teach them to be better leaders within their school and community.

“It’s not people you interact with every day”. Wood said. “So you get to know other people, and you learn to work with different character traits. People that work in different ways; people that problem-solve differently. You get their views.”