Leadership Sandy Springs is thinking young.

The 25-year-old leadership development program is launching a similar program for teenagers.

“It’s really about building our next generation of community leaders,” said Debora Wilson, who during the 2010 Leadership Sandy Springs helped develop the new Youth Leadership Sandy Springs program.

“When I went to school, nobody introduced the idea of taking leadership back to your community. The earlier we can connect with emerging leaders, the more we can instill a sense of civic responsibility and civic pride. Also, it gives us an opportunity to help them as leaders generally.”

The new program will begin taking applications March 1. The first class, which can include up to 30 members, will begin in the fall and continue through the school year. The program, which costs $500, is open to rising high school students who will be juniors or sophomores during the 2011-2012 school year.

Polly Warren, the incoming director of the youth program, said the organization is looking for students who are active in the community and want to make a difference.

“I’ve always been impressed by this generation’s commitment to service,” Warren said. The program, she said, will teach the students leadership skills and “give them some of the tools [and show] how you make a difference.”

“We’re going to be building the next generation of leaders,” she said.

Wilson said a team of participants in the 2010 Leadership Sandy Springs program studied similar youth leadership programs in neighboring communities and took ideas from several different programs to build into its proposal for a youth leadership development course.

Students in Sandy Springs will attend classes on government, the environment and other topics and perform a service project, Warren said. Also, each student will be paired with a member or graduate of the adult version of Leadership Sandy Springs based on the student’s employment interests, Warren said, and will shadow that adult for a day.

“We have hundreds and hundreds of people in Sandy Springs who are all much more connected to our city and much more knowledgeable about our city [because of Leadership Sandy Springs],” Wilson said.

“It’s part of the strength of Sandy Springs.As we do this with our youth at this very important turning point in their lives, we hope they, too, will join that group of very responsible and engaged citizens of Sandy Springs.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.