by Maggie, James River Leadership Academy Student

The James River Leadership Academy has changed almost every aspect of my life. This program has altered how I view myself and the world around me. When I first signed up, I had no idea what I was getting into or how much fun I would have! I expected it to be a fun, learning experience, but nowhere near as impactful as it has been.

Through the James River Leadership program, I have made lifelong friends, become more involved in my community, and made my own personal discoveries. I have discovered that I want to go into Environmental Law during college, which was never on my radar before the JRLA. I also discovered how much I love nature and how important it is for me to protect. I learned how to do a lot of “grownup-esque” things like write proposals, make financial decisions, set deadlines, talk to authority figures, public speaking, and make compromises. But the JRLA is not just boring, grown-up stuff, I have gotten to participate in a ropes course (which I really did NOT want to do), canoe, kayak, and play so, so, SO many rounds of Uno.

The James River Leadership Academy is a fantastic opportunity that has allowed me to discover life outside of my home and community. My capstone project for the JRLA is to build a new trail along Percival’s Island in Lynchburg. My new trail will be dedicated to youth who have died in the Lynchburg area. My hope is to have five benches, stepping stones, and signage naming the trail the “Youth Memorial Along the James River”.

This program also taught me to deal with speed bumps, and there have been many with my project. Currently, I am in the fundraiser phase for my project, and next, I will be clearing and marking the spots for the benches along the trail. Overall, the James River Leadership Academy has helped me find my passion for the outdoors and learn many vital life skills while having a lot of fun!

View my fundraising gofundme link here. You can also donate directly to the James River Association for this fund via check or through their online donation page. Just be sure to add a note that it is for the Youth Memorial!