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story.lead_photo.caption South Callaway High School students Heidi Benningfield, right, and Torin Fann attended the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry Leadership in Practice forum in June. The conference aims to provide young Missourians with the opportunity to learn what it takes to be an effective leader. (Submitted photo)

There's no better way to develop leadership skills than to practice, practice, practice.

That is exactly what South Callaway High School sophomore students Heidi Benningfield and Torin Fann did while attending the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Leadership In Practice student forum.

"We are investing in the community's future when students attend Leadership in Practice," said Tamara Tateosian, executive director of the Callaway Chamber of Commerce. "The tools they learned in these three days will travel with them for a lifetime."

Benningfield and Fann were among more than 110 youth selected as future leaders from schools across the state. Taking place June 23-26 on the Westminster College campus in Fulton, Leadership in Practice is designed to provide young Missourians with the opportunity to learn what it takes to be an effective leader in their schools and communities.

Co-hosting the program were the Jenny and Warren Erdman Charitable Fund and the Kansas City Southern Charitable Fund.

"At its core, Leadership In Practice is discovering who you are as a leader," said Warren Erdman, executive vice president of administration and corporate affairs for Kansas City Southern.

All participants were students between their freshman and sophomore years in high school. With help from Missouri business leaders and educators, the students learned firsthand about how to successfully work together as a team and individually as a leader.

The students were challenged to use leadership skills in activities that simulated real-life situations, including team building with a low ropes course, a mock Model U.N. session and an entrepreneurship challenge.

During the entrepreneurship challenge, students worked in small groups to develop business plans for a new product or service and pitched their ideas to a "Shark Tank"-style panel of Missouri business leaders. At the end of the program participants were encouraged to set goals for themselves for their continued development as leaders in their high schools, community and beyond.

Leadership in Practice is part of a youth leadership educational program created by the Missouri Chamber in 1962. It is partially funded through sponsorships provided by state businesses and civic organizations. Benningfield and Fann were selected to attend by South Callaway High School professional staff and the Callaway Chamber of Commerce.

Applicants are evaluated on character, scholarship and leadership and must be recommended by a school official, student council sponsor, local chamber of commerce or civic leader.

Fann and Benningfield were sponsored by the Callaway Chamber of Commerce, a local business-led organization dedicated to enhancing Callaway County communities. For more information on the Missouri Chamber's Leadership in Practice program, visit mochamber.com/lip.

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