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Amherst students learn to be leaders

"The work and the program isn't time consuming [or] boring; the people you meet while volunteering are unique as well."

This description by Matt Ciminella, a sophomore at Sweet Home High School, depicts the Amherst Youth Consortium, a group of student volunteers in grades eight to 12 who live in Amherst. Not only is it a volunteer group but it is also a chance for students to strengthen their leadership qualities.

Sponsored by the Town of Amherst Youth and Recreation Department, the Amherst Youth Consortium also strives to promote the 40 Assets for Healthy Youth Development, a series of traits that are noticed in teens who follow healthy lifestyles. Throughout the year, Amherst Youth Consortium members promote these through presentations as well as volunteering throughout the community.

Many members of the Amherst Youth Consortium help out at kids' summer camps and promote specific assets. Some of the assets emphasized in the past have been positive family communication, positive peer influence and cultural competence.

The teens that are involved with the AYC are role models. Some of the group's activities include Project Sticker Shock, an endeavor that involved putting stickers that warned about the harms of alcohol when consumed by minors on alcohol products in stores; presentations of the locally produced DVD, "Are You Asset Strong?," to adults and students throughout Amherst; a Warm Clothing Project that aided families who cannot afford winter clothes; and work at the New Beginnings Food Pantry and PARC Bowling.

Many of the students run and plan these events and projects themselves.

Last year, 98 students took the AYC pledge and became members. This membership lasts a year, and each student comes for different reasons.

Joe Montalbano, a freshman at the Maritime Charter School, says he joined because he "wanted to become a better leader."

Josiah Kachelmeyer, a senior at Williamsville South High School, says that he continues to be in the Amherst Youth Consortium "because of the sense of belonging [he gets] from everyone."

Lauren Elliot, a sophomore at Williamsville East High School, says that she has "made so many friends in the process."

Emily DeRoo is a junior at Williamsville North High School.