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Youth Leaders Share Their Passion to Serve

The four high school students chosen to serve as this year’s Jackson EMC delegates on the Washington Youth Tour obviously share the ability to lead as they embark on this weeklong adventure, Georgia’s oldest leadership program for teens. But this team of four has more in common; each student leader exudes a passion to mentor friends, fellow students and even strangers.

As delegates on the June 12-19 leadership tour of Washington D.C., Zac Adams, Betsy Barrett, Ian McGaughey and Michael Smith will have the opportunity to meet members of Congress as they learn about U.S. history and government, the role of democracy and the need for public service. Along with 105 more Georgia delegates, they will join 1,600 Youth Tour participants from electric co-ops across the country as they explore the Smithsonian Museums, Holocaust Museum, Mount Vernon, Supreme Court, Capitol, Washington Monument and the FDR, Jefferson, World War II and Lincoln memorials. “With tours of museums, memorials and monuments, the trip provides a history lesson that can’t be learned from any textbook or classroom,” says Jackson EMC President/CEO Chip Jakins. Meet the team captains and peer mentors who make up this year’s Jackson EMC delegation on the Washington Youth Tour.

Ian McGaughey

"It takes courage to be a leader – to speak in front of people, be a listener and be a people pleaser without conforming.”

When Ian McGaughey learned last year that Stacy, Bill and Tripp Halstead were moving to Jefferson, he knew there was only one thing to do: Welcome them home.

Then a sophomore at Jackson County Comprehensive High School, McGaughey gathered fellow football players and Fellowship of Christian Athletes members to prepare the Halsteads’ home for renovations to make it wheelchair-accessible for Tripp, 3, who sustained traumatic brain injuries in 2012.

“They were moving into our community and I wanted them to feel welcome,” says McGaughey, son of Kenneth and Margaret McGaughey of Jefferson. Volunteering through a local nonprofit, McGaughey and friends swarmed the Halstead home in March 2013 and removed interior walls, floors, sinks and tubs. “Those boys worked so hard,” Stacy recalls, adding, “The community was awesome in the way they embraced us.”

A member of Boy Scout Troop 534 in Flowery Branch, McGaughey recently completed his Eagle Scout project by building a 300-foot split rail fence at his church. At school, he’s on the Student Athlete Leadership Team, Peer Mentors and varsity golf team. He plans to pursue a civil engineering degree at the U.S. Air Force Academy to become an Air Force pilot.

Betsy Barrett

“To be a leader takes patience and understanding, to realize everyone doesn’t come from the same walk of life.”

A rising senior at North Hall High School in Gainesville, Betsy Barrett exudes a passion for missions and compassion for children. While some teens spend spring break at the beach, Barrett joins youth from Gainesville’s Lakewood Baptist Church on mission trips to Guatemala where families live in shacks and have little to eat.

“Seeing their poverty was completely eye opening for me,” says Barrett. “My passion is to help people who can’t do for themselves.”

After learning of a young Guatemalan sold into slavery, Barrett began organizing a 24-Hour Justice Mission to create awareness about human trafficking and raise funds for the International Justice Mission this fall.

At school, Barrett serves on Student Council and Peer Leaders and has organized school rallies. The daughter of Jeff and Theresa Barrett of Gainesville, she plans to pursue a business management degree at North Georgia College and envisions a career combining event planning with mission work.

“God tells us to go make disciples in every nation,” she says. “I feel like I’m called, not just in Gainesville but around the world. Sometimes it’s scary to think of where I’ll end up next.”

Michael Smith

"A person of strong integrity can be well respected, but a leader of strong integrity can change the world.”

As captain of the varsity lacrosse team at Mountain View High School in Lawrenceville, Michael Smith encourages his teammates to build each other up.

“To come together as a team, you have to accept that challenges are going to arise, push through them and know you’ll lift each other up,” says Smith, a junior. This same philosophy of encouragement follows him off the field and into the school hallways where Smith takes part in an informal prayer ministry he helped organize his freshman year.

“We pair up like the disciples did and ask people if we can pray for them,” says Smith. “Some say yes, some say no; it’s completely voluntary . . . It’s easy to go through the busy day at school without noticing the kid in the back of the classroom. We just want that kid to know someone cares about him.”

The son of Ben and Linda Sawyer of Lawrenceville, Smith serves on the Student Leadership Team at 12 Stone Church and is considering a career in pastoral ministry. At school, he has leadership roles in Student Council and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Zac Adams

"I am trustworthy and honest. These are two of the most important leadership skills because they build a foundation of trust.”

Zac Adams knows about teamwork. He trains with SwimAtlanta, competes on his school’s varsity swim team and coaches a neighborhood summer swim team. Drawing from that background, Adams helped pull together another team, Suwanee Youth Leaders, teens who meet monthly at Suwanee City Hall to learn about leadership, government and politics.

“Zac helped formulate the program,” says Suwanee Economic and Community Development Director Denise Brinson. “He serves as an ambassador for it and is one of the most conscientious students I’ve worked with.”

A rising senior at Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Adams is on the Junior Leadership Team and Student Athlete Leadership Team. His career goal is to become an oncologist. “My dad is a 26-year cancer survivor and my granddad passed away with cancer,” says Adams, the son of Eric and Melissa Adams of Duluth, adding that his ultimate goal would be to cure cancer.

“Zac isn’t just the type of student we want all students to be,” says his calculus teacher, Chrissie Bolt. “He’s the type of person we want our children to be.”