The youth of our country are the future of our nation. To ensure that these youth are prepared for their impending responsibilities, Fort Bragg Youth Education Support Services hosts the annual Youth Leadership Conference. This year, conference participants assisted the Fort Bragg Cultural Resources Management Program with a beautification project at the historic Long Street Presbyterian Church in preparation for the annual descendant congregation reunion.

The YESS Youth Leadership Conference is now in its ninth year.

“The Youth Leadership Conference’s purpose is to provide an opportunity for military affiliated teens to explore their most important issues about Fort Bragg or the Army,” said Gerhard Guevarra, a school liaison officer. On the first day of the conference, students participate in leadership studies to identify their concerns and address garrison leadership. On the second day, they participate in a community service project. According to Guevarra, these projects have been incorporated into the Youth Leadership Conference for two years, and they are designed to instill a spirit of community within the participants.

Twenty-eight students from local and regional schools participated in the 2012 Youth Leadership Conference. Guevarra and fellow school liaison officer Emily Grimes hosted the conference for YESS. Jonelle Thompson and Mindy Love-Stanley of Environmental Management coordinated the efforts with Dr. Linda Carnes-McNaughton, Charles Heath and Daryl Armour of the CRMP.

At the event, Heath regaled the students with tales of Long Street Presbyterian Church. He discussed its foundation by Scottish immigrants, the elements of its architecture and its significance to the colonial Argyle community and to the Army. Afterwards, a crew of students and supervisors prepared the interior of the church structure, while, another crew tended to the grounds and cemetery.

“The Youth Leadership Conference is a great experience,” said Anna Norton, a conference participant and a rising junior at Marlboro Academy in Bennettsville, S.C. “The experience has strengthened my relationships with other military Families, and we are assisting the community for a nice cause.”

Rising Seventy-First High School junior, Jalen Miller from Fayetteville, said the conference was an important step toward his personal growth.

“I hope to gain leadership skills and self-confidence through this project,” he said.

By the end of the day, the students learned lessons in history and civic support and Long Street Presbyterian Church was pristine.

“The event was very educational for the students,” said Guevarra. Heath and Armour agreed that their efforts were invaluable, and they believed that the descendants of the original presbytery would be pleased with the church’s renewed state for the reunion. In fact, YESS and CRMP hope to continue the partnership as a result of the positive experiences for both organizations.

“If we can assist our youth on their journeys into adulthood and inspire a sense of resource stewardship in them at an early age, then we have all accomplished a significant goal,” said Thompson.

“By molding them into caring and productive members of society, we are supporting the Army community the right way … the green way … all the way.”