Graduation ceremonies were held Sunday for this year’s Richardson Youth Leadership class, including seven participants from Lake Highlands High School. RYL is a program which recruits outstanding students from the district’s four high schools and introduces them to the inner workings of the City of Richardson and the school district as a whole. Students submit applications to participate along with teacher recommendations, and 32 juniors participated this year. 

The group started the year with a retreat and ropes course as a way to get to know each other. Part of the benefit of the program is to interact with and learn from student leaders from the other schools in the district. Later they toured the city’s traffic center, water treatment plant, and animal shelter, and they learned to lay out and plan a city using legos and maps from city planners. They also traveled to the University of Texas at Dallas, where they visited the "motion capture lab" to learn animation techniques from creative minds on the cutting edge.

In December, they volunteered as friendly characters in Santa’s Village, interacting with underprivileged preschoolers as kids toured the miniature town. Next they visited Texas Instruments to hear leaders in business and industry give advice and share their experiences. They also designed business cards for themselves describing what they’d be doing in ten years, which forced them to do some forward thinking and imagining.

In February they toured the clinical areas of Richardson Regional Medical Center, including observing MRIs and CAT scans and observing action in the ER. They also received lessons in etiquette, toured the City Jail, practiced radaring speeding cars, and visited the fire station. Graduation festivities including a celebratory send-off for the program’s director, Connie Wright, who announced her retirement. Ms. Wright has been bright and approachable as she brought inspirational and motivational programs to the kids. She encouraged them to see the big picture beyond their own campus, and to learn from the student leaders attending schools they considered "rivals" or didn’t notice at all. They learned much from each other, and they completed the program more prepared to enter college and interact with students from a variety of locations and experiences.

Current sophomores interested in the program may get more information and obtain an application online here. Paperwork must include teacher recommendations, and the packet is due by April 17, 2009.