Participants draw leadership, life lessons from inaugural Trojan Patriot Academy

Trojan Patriot Academy participants pose with Gov. Kay Ivey for a photo on the steps of the Alabama Capitol.

Trojan Patriot Academy participants pose with Gov. Kay Ivey for a photo on the steps of the Alabama Capitol.

A group of rising high school juniors and seniors from around the Alabama honed their skills in leadership and increased their knowledge of civics and history during the inaugural Trojan Patriot Academy earlier this month.

The five-night camp, which was the result of an ongoing partnership between Troy University and the American Village Citizenship Trust, was designed to expose students to leadership practices and ideals through the lens of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Participants spent the first two days at the Troy Campus where they were involved in various leadership activities led by faculty from the University’s Leadership Institute. The group also got to test their leadership and teamwork skills during an outing to Camp Butter and Egg in Troy.

From there, students spent Wednesday in Montgomery, meeting state leaders including Gov. Kay Ivey and State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey and touring the State Capitol and Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum, before heading to Montevallo for the final two days of the camp at the American Village.

“Troy University is committed to preparing leaders,” said Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., TROY’s Chancellor. “I’m convinced that America has the greatest need for leaders today than ever in our history. Leaders are not born, they are developed. That is why we are engaged, and we cherish this partnership with the American Village.”

During the closing ceremony at the American Village, Dr. Hawkins urged participants to continuing their journey to becoming leaders and remain engaged in their communities.

“I encourage you to stay involved. We need you,” he said. “I want you to have a vision, not just for what you will do tomorrow, but what you will do 10 years from now. I want you to think big. The preservation of this democracy is a big idea that is worthy of our best efforts.”

Participants also took part in a service project, putting together packets for the Short the Squirrel literacy initiative.

Dr. Hawkins also announced that each participant of the Trojan Patriot Academy will receive a $1,000 scholarship to Troy University.

Dr. Alan Miller, CEO of American Village, said the Village was pleased to partner with TROY and he looked forward to making the Trojan Patriot Academy even bigger and better.

“We were excited to partner with Troy University for the very same reason students should seriously consider attending TROY,” he said. “TROY stands proudly behind its core values and guiding beliefs, and I don’t think you will find another university in the country that demonstrates this type of commitment. We are incredibly proud and thankful to partner with TROY, and I want to express my deep gratitude to Dr. Hawkins.”

Speaking during the closing ceremony, Dr. Miller congratulated participants for their commitment to participant in the inaugural event.

Trojan Patriot Academy participants take part in activity at Camp Butter and Egg in Troy.

“I hope you have enjoyed this week. We will continue to look at what we have done with this inaugural Trojan Patriot Academy and make improvements, and we do hope you will help promote this program moving forward,” he said. “I think it is incredibly important to the future of our nation that we are developing leaders with principles, virtue and morality as the foundation of how they lead.”

Participants were eager to put what they had learned throughout the week into practice. Rylee Hathcox from Isabella High School in Chilton County said the leadership lessons she felt she would gain was what led her to participate.

“My government and economics teacher is a big history person, and he saw this opportunity and presented it to me. I looked over it,” Hathcox said. “I’m big on leadership and am president of the FFA chapter at my school, so I thought that doing this would help me to become a better leader, not only for my chapter but help me grow better leaders within my school.”

Hathcox said the camp opened her eyes to other aspects of leadership.

“There are more qualities to leadership than we traditionally think about,” she said. “Before this I never thought of a leader as being healing or being a good steward. I never associated those terms with leadership. I think we have more qualities of leadership outside of the traditional ones that we can all still learn and grow in.”

Diarra King of Fort Mitchell in Russell County said she saw the Trojan Patriot Academy as a way to help her expand her horizons as she seeks to become a corporate lawyer.

Participants also had the opportunity to tour Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum to learn about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the birth of the Civil Rights Movement.

“I’ve always been interested in political science, law and corporate business and how people work together,” she said. “When I saw the Trojan Patriot Academy, I was thinking this would be an amazing opportunity through which I would get to learn more about politics and leadership.”

One of those valuable lessons King says she learned during the week was about how to work more effectively with others.

“I’m used to working with people who are like me. Now I know different ways to work with those who are unlike me,” King said. “I am more outgoing and now I have learned how to work with people who are more reserved. I now know how to work with people who operate on a thinking basis rather than a feeling basis like I do.”

While the leadership lessons learned during the week are something that King plans to implement, she admitted that another opportunity presented by the camp was most exciting to her.

“I heard about the opportunity to meet the governor and I was so excited,” she said.

Clayton Simpson from Blount County called the Trojan Patriot Academy “an amazing experience.”

“I didn’t really know what to expect but it has been a great experience,” he said. “I have gotten to meet a lot of great people and learn a lot about the principles on which our country was founded.”

Like King, Simpson believes the camp has opened him up to become better at working with others.

“I’ve learned a lot this week about working with different people,” he said. “I have always been involved with a lot of like-minded people, but this has allowed me to experience working with others who may have different ideas. It has been a great experience that has done a lot to prepare me for leadership in the future.”