Summer leadership academy returning to Shelby County

Published 11:29 am Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Students pose for a photo during last summer’s edition of the WAL hosted at the University of Montevallo. (Contributed)

Students pose for a photo during last summer’s edition of the WAL hosted at the University of Montevallo. (Contributed)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

Every summer, 40 high school students from across the state descend on Montevallo for three days of learning, character development and forming friendships at the Walsh Academy of Leadership.

The summer leadership academy, also known as the WAL, is an extension of the Alabama Youth Leadership Development Program.

“We started the program as an answer to a request from (YLDP members),” said WAL director and Jefferson State Community College’s Libby Holmes.

Although YLDP students completed a combined 3,500 hours of community service throughout the past school year, the students felt “it was never enough,” and wanted something similar in the summer, Holmes explained.

“We said, ‘Well, let’s start a summer camp!’” Holmes said.

The camp was named in honor of YLDP founder Dr. Kevin Walsh and is held at the University of Montevallo.

“We have a very good relationship with (the University of Montevallo),” Holmes said. “It was a perfect fit to host (the WAL) in Shelby County at Montevallo.”

During the three-day camp, students participate in teambuilding games and activities, learn about American history at American Village and, most importantly, form bonds, Holmes said.

The camp brings together a group of diverse students from all backgrounds across Alabama.

“It brings together these very different high school students,” Holmes said. “They get to know and learn about these other people, and they get to form friendships.”

Students breakdown barriers, learn about their peers and make connections. At the end of the three days, students give their testimony and talk about their experience at the WAL.

“Primarily, I hope they take away that if they step out of their comfort zone and meet new people…they will find more similarities than differences,” Holmes said. “It’s just amazing to watch it happen again and again.”

Students who participate in the WAL also get a “golden ticket for YLDP,” where they can continue building the skills they learned during the WAL, Holmes said.

“The cool thing about (the WAL) is, these students make all these bonds and then take them to the YLDP,” Holmes said.

This year’s edition of the WAL runs from June 23-25. Applications for the program are due by April 1. Visit to apply. For more information about the WAL, visit