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A little over a month ago, our team headed to Birmingham to lend a hand in creating the environment for The 2016 Shelby County Student Leadership Conference. The Leadership Conference is put on by high school student leaders in Shelby County, Alabama who are passionate about instilling a drive for leadership in their fellow high schoolers. While working with the incredible, generation-changing program, we had the privilege of serving alongside John Milton. John is a Shelby County teacher and a key player in the Leadership Conference. His passion for building strong student leaders inspired our team. Meet John and check out the heart behind this incredible organization!

What is your role with the Shelby County Leadership Program and how did you get involved?

I am the Founder and Program Director. I started the Conference in 2013 with a small group of students from Oak Mountain High School who wanted to make a difference in their community. We thought the best way would be to create an event that inspired others students in our community to make an impact in their schools.

What is your favorite part about working with high school students?

I love how high school students get passionate about helping others. I love that a large part of their story hasn’t been written yet and I get the chance to help them think about how they want to write it. Their ideas and energy motivate me to continue to grow as a leader. I really love the relationships I am able to create, that typically last for many years. It is so special to me to stay in touch with students and see them grow up, get married, and start families and I know that I was a part of their story.

Why are you passionate about leadership?

For me, leadership is a way to connect with others and do something meaningful. I have never been the most talented, but I am always able to find ways to influence others. I think that leadership is a great training ground for character development. As a high school teacher, my top priority has to be about preparing students for what’s next. Leadership is essential in that training.

What is the most important thing that being involved with the Leadership Program has taught you?

I have learned so many things, but I think that what has stood out to me the most is to stay humble and remember how and why this started. If this program was gone tomorrow, no longer funded or supported, I would still be able to influence the kids I teach. As the program has grown, I’ve tried to still remember at the core it is about one-on-one connections with kids who are hungry to learn, grow and lead.

What is your favorite quote?

“Success is knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others.”- John Maxwell

What is your favorite song right now?

Anything by Tom Petty

What is the best piece of leadership advice you’d like to share with us?

I’ve come to learn more and more that leadership is about relationships. Relationships with real people. People have emotions, they grow, and they change, and therefore leadership is constantly changing as you seek to start, build, and rebuild relationships. My advice would be to always remember to put people first and treat others with respect.

John, you truly exemplify living and leading at a higher level–keep on inspiring students to do the same!