My organization works with businesses, local officials, schools, and other organizations to provide resources for economic growth, development of the local workforce, and promotion of countywide events that draw visitors to our county. Part of those efforts include leading our local young people to more community involvement and the development of skills that will not only help them in their future search for employment, but also grow a more skilled and motivated local workforce and give our younger generation a greater appreciation for their community. One of the problems that we have noted among our young people is the lack of knowledge of their county history, the need to develop better skills to deal with the public, and the lack of confidence when dealing with residents of all ages. The need to address these issues led my organization to form the Junior Ambassador Program.
Grant funds were used to provide scholarship opportunities for local high school seniors who display a commitment to community service. This year, we included the requirement that the applicants submit essays describing how growing up in their home county has affected their childhood and how they felt that it would impact their future. By doing so, we hoped to give them the opportunity to evaluate and express the value that they see as the product of a rural county in the Black Belt region of Alabama. This year, we selected six students, including one from each of our four high schools, as well as two at-large selections. The four students selected to represent their high schools each received $1,000 scholarships, while the two chosen at-large each received $500 scholarships. Those selected as Junior Ambassadors took part in a list of Chamber-sponsored events, acting as assistants, hosts, and hostesses to greet and interact with the public. The students took part in the following events our annual Choctaw County Hall of Fame Banquet, acting as servers to provide meals for attendees. The event took place at the The Warehouse Industrial Event Venue in Butler and included more than 75 attendees, including the families of six individuals who were inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.The Junior Ambassadors participated in the Chamber’s annual Pancake Supper at the Butler Civic Center, taking part in cooking and serving meals for local business owners and employees and acting as greeters for the public. The event drew about 35 attendees. The Ambassadors also assisted with activities at the Chamber office in Butler, helping to renovate and organize areas within the department.