Earlier this year, George Williams decided to start courting the business community to help fund the Richard Williams Youth Leadership Academy’s initiatives.
The result is the opportunity to serve three times as many children at the academy’s summer camp and the establishment of a new institute in the late Fred Forster’s name.
Forster was a retired general who led the 134th Air Refueling Wing before he started a 12-year tenure as president and CEO of the Blount County Chamber Partnership. He retired in 2010. He died after a battle with cancer in November of that year.
“We’ve expanded our academy partnerships and we’ve accepted a challenge to work with more young people and to work outside the faith-based community, and in order to do that, we created the Fred Forster Institute,” George Williams said. “Why name it the Fred Forster Institute? Think of what Fred meant to this community. He helped conceptualize the leadership academy. He helped me put the academy on paper.”
George Williams started the youth leadership academy to honor his brother, the late Richard Williams, a Blount County commissioner at the time of his death in 2003.
In addition to classes after school to help the students stay in school and on track for college, the academy organizes a summer camp each year that last year saw 45 to 50 students at Maryville College’s Alumni Gym.
Williams said that by opening up fundraising to more of the business community through the Forster Institute, the summer camp will be able to host three times as many students at multiple venues.
“At our summer camp we are comfortable with 45 to 50 kids. We are going to triple that at the camp through the institute and instead of just being five days, it is going to seven and possibly eight days,” Williams said. “Instead of being one venue at Maryville College, we’ll be at the Alcoa City Center, three places at Maryville College, and we will have activities at Safety City in Knoxville.”
Williams said Forster was big promoter of business and growth and leadership. “We wanted to become more of a bridge between youth and employment and career opportunities,” Williams said. “We want to keep more home-grown talent here and grow that talent to where they can take our place in the community.”
Williams said the new institute allows the academy to do more fundraising. “Before we had not placed lot of emphasis on fundraising. We always felt the Lord would provide. Several people challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and branch out of the faith-based box and reach out to the business community. The response was amazing. People want to work and help young people,” he said.
Williams said the new institute will have an office at the Alcoa City Center and a part-time executive director in Steve Gorman. “He is a former executive in the telecommunications industry,” Williams said. “He brings a goldmine of corporate methods to the academy and the institute. I would’ve never in my wildest dreams see us with a paid employee, but we’re going to do fundraising, and the Fred Forster Institute is going to be a great success.”
In addition to the summer camp that will be run through the Forster Institute, Williams said the Forster Institute also will work with the Tennessee Career Center and the Chamber community. “We’re going to be running job preparation classes, job specific class for companies looking to hire young workers,” he said.
Beginning on June 3, young people will have an opportunity to get counseling and even a job through the Forster Institute. “We are bringing in “Career Coach,” a motor coach sponsored by the State of Tennessee Career Coach. It will be a health and community fair put on by Humana One, and young people can come and get job tutoring. At least one employer, Quality Private Duty Care, will be looking to hire employees that day.”
On June 25, the Forster Institute will hold its first fundraiser at the Clayton Center for the Arts. “We’ll hold our inaugural Future Leaders Banquet, and we’ll announce our first Future Leader of the Year,” Williams said. The award will be in Fred Forster’s name, the academy founder said.
Williams said the fundraiser will be part of Youth Leadership Development Month. “The purpose of Youth Leadership Development Month is to celebrate holistic youth development,” he said. “We want to develop well-rounded children. We’re going to be looking for and celebrating other people who emphasize academic achievement, attitude, character, integrity, work ethic and volunteerism.”
Williams said the Forster Institute will also help the academy expanding its relationship with other non-profit partners. “We’re also going to sponsor a Boy Scout troop through the Fred Forster Institute,” he said. “The institute opens a plethora of opportunities to touch children and keep alive the memory of one of the leaders of our community.”
In addition to Gorman, several others are joining Williams team. Laura Riddick will help with the camp this summer, work with the Kidette portion of the leadership academy, and she will lead the Rising Leadership Division of the institute. The institute’s Career Division will be led by Gorman, and the Community Leadership Division will be led by Alice Allen.
For more information regarding the camp, call Williams at 865-379-6480.