Students and a teacher sit at a round table.

Statewide Youth Summits Cultivate Community Leaders

The University of Alabama’s Center for Economic Development hosted several regional youth summits through the Equitable Neighborhoods Initiative, which strives to help teens from diverse backgrounds improve health outcomes for their communities through Youth Community Councils across Alabama.

During these summits, high school students in the YCCs and ENI Advisory Groups, which are made up of community members from a variety of backgrounds and professions, met with ENI leaders, held brainstorming sessions and participated in a pitch competition where students presented their ideas for promoting health equity in their respective communities.

Three students present to an audience.
Youth summit student participants broke off into groups and pitched their ideas to help their communities.

Impacting Students

Those involved want students to know their opinions and ideas are crucial to their community leaders and citizens.

“The students have definitely grown with awareness for health in our community, mental health especially, and awareness of drug abuse that has taken place in our community,” said Keith Rhudy, ENI community liaison for Guin. “We’re reaching out to them and saying, ‘We want your thoughts and maybe some solutions that you have.’”

Teneeshia Johnson, ENI community liaison for Dadeville, hopes the students take away lessons from the summits.

“I hope the students will take away leadership skills. I hope they learn to win, how to win and the components they will need in life to win,” she said. “If they can start with themselves and what they think we need to change in the community and we can get unity in the schools…it’s just going to grow all over the community.”

Groups of students work on pitch ideas.
Students worked together and alongside their respective ENI Community Liaisons.

The summits were held Jan. 24-31 at Troy University, the University of South Alabama, Auburn University, Bevill State Community College and Gadsden State Community College and several students from communities around those institutions participated.

“I was struck by the creativity, innovation and passion demonstrated by the young participants at the ENI youth summits,” said Dr. Arturo Menefee, interim executive director of UACED and ENI project leader.

“They showcased a diverse array of talents and provided compelling ideas for tackling health equity issues in their communities.”


Jennifer Brady, UA Strategic Communications,