Olympic gold medalist Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas was back in DeKalb County on Aug. 10 as guest speaker of the 2013 Youth Empowerment Breakfast at the Marriott Evergreen Resort in Stone Mountain.
Douglas, who won gold medals in both the team and individual all-around competitions 2012 London Summer Olympics, gave encouraging words to the 20 Youth Leadership Academy students and participated in a Q&A session with young gymnasts and fans. Douglas said she was honored to speak at the Youth Empowerment Breakfast.
“I love doing speaking engagements like this,” she said. “Just to share my message and tell everyone to go out there and fight for your dreams and don’t be afraid to be great.”
Douglas is the first woman of color and any nationality and the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become the Individual all-around champion. She is also the first American gymnast to win gold in both the gymnastic individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympic Games.
The breakfast benefited the Youth Leadership Academy, which was established by DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton in 2008. The academy was created to meet the needs of youth through education, enrichment, and community service and leadership development, according its website. The academy is a two-year program for 10th graders that promotes conflict management, communication, academic achievement and leadership.
“Through continued support of the Youth Leadership Academy from the DeKalb County School System and the Metro YMCA, we have been successful in working to improve and prepare our students for success,” Sutton said. “Involving families and their children in community service and leadership development opportunities, family interactions and expectations are increased.”
The Youth Leadership Academy has had 169 students go through the program in four years. June 2012 began the second three-year cycle for students that will graduate from the program in 2015. The summer program is a full day of academics and enrichment. Students participate in workshops, classes, and field trips. Students are monitored throughout the year and participate in enrichment programs quarterly.
Nia Laing, a junior at Stephenson High School, said she has learned a lot during the summer at the academy, including self-discipline.
“We had this system where if you come to class late or if you miss days then you might get kicked out,” she said. “So [the program] taught me self-discipline, responsibility and leadership.”
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