By DIONNE MAHAFFEY Special to the Daily World
More than 1,000 teenagers convened at the Marriott Marquis downtown for the Jack and Jill of America 55th annual Southeastern Regional Teen Leadership Conference last weekend. This year, East Suburban Atlanta and Stone Mountain chapters served as hosts for the conference which included meetings, leadership workshops, community service events and board elections.
“This conference gives us an opportunity to put into practice everything we’ve learned from this organization,” said Kandi Walker, regional teen president, in her opening address.
Jack and Jill of America is an international organization based in Washington D.C., and founded in 1938 by two Philadelphia mothers. Five states, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee make up the “Sweet, Sweet Southeastern Region” which is home to 39 chapters.
Parents in these chapters provide cultural, civic, service, educational and recreational opportunities for their children.
The mothers meet monthly to plan activities for children ages 2 and up. Once the children reach age 13, they migrate into the teenage arm of the organization and plan activities for themselves as well as have their own separate conferences.
The theme for the June 22-26 conference was “Stitching the Hems of our Heritage” The program included plenary sessions, educational and leadership workshops, an oratorical contest, social events, step-show/talent show, leadership awards presentations and a senior banquet with awards where graduating teenagers were celebrated during a lavish gala event. There were 133 graduates introduced to the other families in membership and their guests. They acknowledged their parents and announced their college choices. The teens also participated in various community service projects throughout the city.
“Not only has it been important for them to become stronger people in character and civic duty, but it has made them better prepared for life,” said Vickey Hale. Her son, Keenan, graduated from the prestigious McCallie School, a private boarding school in Chattanooga, Tenn. He will be attending Syracuse University in the fall.
Marcia Days, an Atlanta resident, was the first teen president for the region 55 years ago. “I remember the first teen conference held in Tennessee,” she said. I never imagined that our organization would grow to be this big. I am so impressed and grateful to be part of the history of Jack and Jill. Days and her husband were both in Jack and Jill as children. Her granddaughter, Nicole Woods, serves as the Regional Teen Foundation chair and is a member of the Buckhead chapter.
“Our annual conference gives the teens an opportunity to demonstrate their passion for excellence and their commitment to service to the community,” said Joli Cooper, regional director of the Southeastern Region and member of the Greater Tampa chapter. “We are proud of their accomplishments and equally impressed that they are so committed to using their gifts to make the world a better place for all children.”
For more information, visit www.jackandjillinc.org