Students learn leadership on chamber board Members: Two nonvoting students don't hesitate to give their opinions on the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

November 12, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Cecilia Pittenger and Bryan Osborn don't own businesses and may never decide to become entrepreneurs, but the high school seniors are among the movers and shakers of commerce in western Anne Arundel County.

As nonvoting members of the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Pittenger and Osborn meet monthly with 16 business and industry leaders from the fastest-growing section of the county.

"It looked like it would be fun, a good opportunity to learn a little bit more about government and stuff," said Pittenger, 17, of Maryland City.

The West County chamber is the only one in the county to have students represented on its board of directors, according to chamber officials.

"What it gives us is a younger person's input into what's going on around us," said Michael Livingston, vice president of the chamber.

And the student slots on the board are not just for show, Livingston said. "We want their input," he said. "I think they listen more than they input, but they do have some things to say."

In addition to attending monthly board meetings -- the November meeting is today in Odenton -- the students have helped the chamber put on fund-raising events such as a September golf tournament in Crofton and a July foot race.

Osborn, 17, of Arden on the Severn, created the chamber's home page on the World Wide Web, which features a mission statement, calendar of events, and, once a glitch is worked out, access to a business directory. The site can be reached at

Osborn said he plans to study physics in college, but was glad to accept a position with the business organization.

"I couldn't turn down a great learning experience," said the student at Old Mill High School. "It's a lot of business, but it's a lot of politics, too, and everyone has to learn more or less about that."

The students may not have a vote, but they do make their voices heard, they said.

"If I really have an opinion on it, I say something," said Pittenger, who attends Meade High School. "If I don't know a lot about it, I don't."

And, she said, she has learned "money just doesn't go very far." That observation comes from helping the board choose which charitable organizations should receive donations from the chamber.

Helping firefighters buy teddy bears to comfort children during emergencies seemed like a worthy cause, but the organization couldn't afford to buy as many teddy bears as the department asked.

Simply reading the letters of groups asking for assistance is eye-opening.

"It kind of gives me an idea of what people are going to look for when they read my [college] application," said Pittenger, who is interested in studying biology.

This is the second year the board of directors has had student representatives, said Marcia Hall, executive director of the chamber. The idea grew out of a subcommittee discussion on how to help young people improve their leadership skills, she said.

The students serve one year, beginning in May. The chamber is looking for an Arundel High School student to fill a slot from that school.

The students are excused from their Tuesday morning classes once a month to attend board meetings, but Pittenger and Osborn said they make up the work they miss.

Pub Date: 11/12/96

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