By Sally Mahan
Too often, young people are victims of being stereotyped as undisciplined, rebellious and defiant.
But the reality is that there are many, many teens in Beaufort County who make good choices, who are motivated, creative, responsible and concerned about making their community a better place to live.
The question is, how do you take those qualities and develop future leaders?
A group of prominent community leaders in Beaufort County has been formed to do just that.
The Foundation for Education Excellence was created in August to identify and support future leaders and to recognize leaders in the community who are setting or have set an example for young people.
According to Dan Durbin, head of school at Beaufort Academy and a board member of The Foundation for Education Leadership, the idea for the foundation came about after several local leaders had a discussion about recognizing, supporting and developing young leaders from public and private schools throughout Beaufort County.
“Part of our conversation early on was about leadership in this county,” Durbin said. “We knew we had to get programs in place that teach young people organizational development, leadership and other things so that when they leave us they will have the foundation to be leaders in college and beyond.”
Several very prominent community leaders are on the board, including people like Durbin; W. Charles Tumlin, of Tumlin Levin and Sumner Wealth Management; and Alice Beddingfield Moss, the former executive director of the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation, among others. There are currently seven board members, and the goal is to bring that number up to nine.
“We really wanted folks who make or have made a big difference in the community,” said Durbin.
He said that after much discussion, the group talked about specific ways to help develop leadership in young people.
“We talked about things we would really like to happen to promote leadership among young people, like providing college scholarships and helping them go to leadership conferences.”
“We might be able to raise money for a dinner to recognize students, but to raise money for scholarships you have to do more than that,” said Durbin. “So after that, we realized that now we need a foundation.”
He added that the group would also like to create a youth leadership conference, maybe every other year, for young people throughout South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.
“We would like to bring in speakers so that the kids can hear and learn from their experiences,” said Durbin. “Having a foundation allows us to bring all these missions together into one.”
Durbin added that it’s important that the foundation has geographical representation. “We want to make sure North of the Broad and South of the Broad are both well represented. As leaders we want to make sure that as a community people will look at it and say, ‘That’s good stuff.”
The foundation will hold its first banquet on Jan. 5 at Tabby House, where 12 local leaders will be recognized with Lowcountry Lifetime Achievement Awards for their history of leadership in the community.
“These are people who have really made a difference and who define leadership as more than having an office and making lots of money,” said Durbin.
Meanwhile, the foundation is also looking toward the future. Durbin said they hope to raise money for scholarships, youth leadership conferences and more.
“We’re in beginning stages of raising money; we’ve been incorporated; and we’re going through the process of getting out nonprofit status approved,” he said.
The end goal?
“We want kids who leave our community who have their eye on being community and business leaders to succeed. We want to recognize the past while preparing for the future.
“From a philosophical standpoint, the folks getting involved in this are really focused on the Lowcountry and then encouraging and motivating these young people to take that fire that the Lowcountry has given them and to make a difference.”
For more information or to donate to the Foundation for Leadership Education, visit lowcountryleaders.com.
And the winners are …
Following are this year’s Foundation for Education Excellence winners of the Lowcountry Lifetime Achievement Awards:
• Dr. Charles Aimar
• Dr. Emory Campbell
• Henry Chambers
• Charles Fraser
• Richard and Joyce Gray
• Brantley Harvey
• Russell Jeter
• Harriet and Dr. Herbert
• Dr. Lawrence Rowland
• Agnes Sherman
• Laura Towne
• Dr. Elijah Washington