Youth Leadership Pinellas
(YLP) is a seven-month series designed to educate high school teens on community resources and issues, develop an excellence in leadership, build teamwork skills, and foster involvement in community services. The program provides situations in which interested citizens may better understand community and business functions, what some of its current or impending problems are, and how they can involve themselves in finding solutions.
This year, a group of roughly thirty 10th-12th grade students who demonstrate leadership were selected to participate from high schools throughout Tampa Bay. Shorecrest Upper School students Caroline Carlan ‘23 and Dexter Schneider ‘23 were accepted into the program.
Over the past few months, participants had the opportunity to see behind the scenes in running the City of St. Petersburg, meet community decision makers and engage with them in off-the-record discussions on current issues. By coming face to face with community leaders in various areas, graduates of YLP are better prepared to assume leadership roles of their own.
Dexter Schneider ‘23 said he heard about the program from Chargers alumna Brenna Dukes ‘21. He most enjoyed seeing “different parts of St. Pete I might not have stepped into, like the Sheriff's office.” On a criminal-justice-themed outing with YLP the teens visited the Sheriff's office, a 911 call center, a fire station and the Pinellas County jail.
Dexter was gratified that there was representation within YLP of those disabled in our community. He visited Lighthouse for the Blind and witnessed their voice-activated computer software and tried to navigate an obstacle course by following someone’s voice and verbal instructions.
“There was a day related to helping people and we went to Clothes for Kids. There was a day we learned about emergency services and went to Sunstar paramedics and saw forensic sciences in action.”
The most interesting person Dexter remembered meeting through the program was Judge Siracusa. “He told us what his job was like; his day to day compared to mine. I go to school and do homework and go to bed; and he’s dealing with different people who are scared, stressed out, talking back to him, and don’t want to be in their situation. He’s there to try to help them the best he can, he doesn't just dispense justice. He helps them as much as he lawfully can. He came across as really nice, even to people on the worst of their luck.”
Schneider sums up the experience as such:
“Some people have tunnel vision and don’t realize where everything in their day-to-day life comes from. We learned how many departments work, how they impact our daily lives. Going through this program gave me an understanding of what may need attention more than something else - what’s struggling in our city.”