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Shelby student hones leadership skills through summer youth program

May 15, 2023 - Josh Mackey is going places – that’s a given. His first stop is Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, where the Shelby native received a full scholarship and is majoring in business with a minor in Spanish. He took the offer from Lenoir-Rhyne after being accepted to all four schools where he applied.

Mackey is accustomed to success. A former participant in the Initiative’s Summer Youth Leadership Program, he graduated from Shelby High School with a 4.0 grade average. During his Initiative internship, Mackey worked with Cleveland County Community Development Corp., learning the ropes and discovering his strong commitment to community.

Among other things, he said, the experience helped him become serious about a career.

“The internship inspired me to choose business as a focus,” said Mackey. “And it gave me experience in nonprofit business management. Working in business takes lots of cooperation and decision-making, and it involves taking risks and working on instinct, and during the internship I had to adapt and better those skills.”

The summer youth program seeks to develop the next generation of North Carolina leaders who are knowledgeable about the needs and challenges facing their communities, particularly those that have been persistently poor, neglected and blighted.

The program launched in 2008, placing 14 rising high school seniors in internships in local nonprofit community development corporations across North Carolina. The Initiative provided stipends for each student. Interns convened in Raleigh for leadership seminars and to share their experiences.

Mackey used the program to hone his skills and prepare for his future. At Lenoir-Rhyne, he’s already displaying some of the leadership skills he picked up during his internship. On campus, he serves as a resident advisor, participates in an a capella group and the gospel choir, is a member of the Theta Xi Fraternity, and participates in Black Student Alliance and the Peer Mentor program. His joy and enthusiasm are infectious when he talks about where he is, how he got there and what may be coming next.

“I’m loving school, loving being here,” Mackey said. “”Just all around, I love it.”

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