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Updated: Wednesday, 05 Dec 2012, 5:45 PM CST
Published : Wednesday, 05 Dec 2012, 5:45 PM CST
GREEN BAY - When most teens go inside of a courtroom to face a judge, it's not by choice. But in this case, it's part of a learning experience. These high school sophomores are part of what some call one of the best kept secrets in the area, the Brown County Teen Leadership program.
"It teaches us a lot about how to communicate well. And when you should speak your mind, and when you should just sit back and listen, and learn from others," said Josh Denis, a sophomore at N.E.W. Lutheran High School.
Josh Denis is one of the group's 40 members. Once a month, instead of going to school, they visit various parts of Brown County, to listen and learn from the areas leaders.
This session is on government. The students prepared a mock trial for Judge Thomas Walsh, and were able to ask him questions about his job.
"But I think the big thing is they're able to interact with leaders in our community, and see what skills they posses," said Dan Terrio, Brown County Teen Leadership program director.
Dan Terrio heads up the effort, which is put on by the Greater Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.
"I think there's an increasing demand for people to have quality leadership skills, especially with the economic climate today, and a need to retain a good workforce here," said Terrio.
He says it's making a difference by showing kids what the area has to offer them.
"They can start being the change that this community needs. The leaders that this community needs," said Terrio.
As part of the program, students also need to complete a group project. One that benefits the community.
Last year's group put together a public service announcement on the dangers of underage drinking and driving.
Becca Weize was a part of that group, and would encourage those who are thinking about it to apply.
"I'd tell them to try it. It gets you out of your comfort zone. But not to a point where you don't want to do it anymore. And it helps you learn a lot of things and become a better person," said Weize, a junior at De Pere High School.
Josh Denis agrees, saying the program gives him an edge.
"I'm not always sure what to say in every situation, or what to do. But through this I'm learning how to act in certain situations and how to take everyone's opinion," said Denis.
The teen leadership program has been around for more than ten years. 300 students have completed the course.
"It's a great opportunity. Anyone who has the chance to do it, should," said Denis.
"I really do think that this program is changing lives," said Terrio.
Students in Partners in Education affiliated high schools are eligible to take part. Applications will be accepted, starting this spring.
This story idea was emailed to us. We encourage you to do the same, if you know someone, or something, that is "making a difference." Let us know about it by email, or message Michelle Melby on her Facebook page.