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Inaugural JLI scholarship gives money, mentorship to three students

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The Jefferson Leadership Institute’s inaugural scholarship to three high school juniors is the beginning of the group’s effort to combat “brain drain.”

The annual leadership development program, run by the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce, recently began to focus on the north country’s best and brightest students being lost to other areas after high school because of a perceived lack of opportunity in Jefferson County, according to Elizabeth C. Quencer, chairwoman of the group’s 2012-13 service project.

The scholarship comes with $1,000 in financial assistance for postsecondary education and a full year of mentorship by alumni of the JLI program.

“I, and most of my JLI classmates, benefited from a mentorship relationship sometime during our lives, and we knew that it would be an invaluable experience for students with leadership potential that could open doors, strengthen resumes, allow students to discover or enhance their interests and change possible misperceptions about Jefferson County business and community life,” Ms. Quencer said.

She said both the financial and mentorship components of the scholarship are essential, but the mentorship piece sets the JLI scholarship apart.

The following students were awarded the inaugural JLI scholarship, which came from a fund administered by the Northern New York Community Foundation:

n Jake Allen — The Belleville Henderson Central School District junior will receive $1,000 and be mentored by Christopher Lorence, JLI class of 1996, who owns Christopher A. Lorence Public Relations & Marketing, Carthage. Mr. Allen is the president of his junior class, an FFA sentinel and secretary of his school’s foreign language club. He volunteers with the St. Cecilia’s Church youth group in Adams.

n Casey Porter — The South Jefferson Central School District junior will receive $1,000 and be mentored by Amanda R. Root, JLI class of 2011 and team coordinator of community nutrition, environment and health at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County. Miss Porter is president of the Jefferson County 4-H dairy and junior Holstein clubs and captain of the Honeyville Baptist Church puppet ministry. She also founded the “Kickin’ It for a Cure” soccer fundraiser, benefiting the Susan G. Komen Cancer Research Center.

n Alexis Stewart — The Sackets Harbor Central School District junior will receive a $1,000 scholarship and be mentored by Cheryl Howard, JLI class of 2012 and owner and chief executive officer of Innovative Physical Therapy Solutions, Watertown. Miss Stewart plays soccer and softball and has participated in her school’s Patriot Pals mentor program.

Ms. Quencer said the time-consuming service project of pulling the scholarship components together required hard work, careful planning and generosity of many community members. She said JLI’s partnership with the Northern New York Community Foundation has been wonderful. Also, within six months, the JLI group established the fund, orchestrated a corporate and alumni donation solicitation campaign, promoted the scholarship to service clubs, found JLI alumni to serve as mentors, developed a rubric for scoring applications, held a spaghetti dinner and silent auction and selected three recipients.

According to a news release from the Community Foundation, the JLI class has raised enough money to date to sustain the scholarship at the same level for several years, but the group will continue to raise funds toward the effort. People who would like to donate can make checks payable to the Northern New York Community Foundation, with “JLI scholarship” in the memo line, and send them to the foundation at 120 Washington St., Suite 400, Watertown, N.Y. 13601.

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