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Lee County High School student Rhiannon Belcher elected to National SADD Student Leadership Council
Lee County teen only Georgian on National SADD Student Leadership Council

LEESBURG — One Lee County High School student was one of only four students selected out of approximately 500 applicants for a national leadership council.

Rhiannon Belcher, president of Lee County Students Against Destructive Decisions, recently found out she was chosen to be on the National SADD Student Leadership Council for the 2019-20 school year.

The application process for the council is extremely competitive. She was the only student from Georgia chosen.

For this accomplishment, Belcher was honored at the Lee County Commission meeting on Tuesday.

Patsy Shirley, coordinator for the Lee County Family Connection, told the commissioners about Belcher’s accomplishment. Belcher got the chance to tell them a little more about her role within the council.

“I actually got recognized as and chosen to be vice president of development for SADD, so my job as the vice president of development is to focus on fundraising on a national level,” she said. “We had a bunch of people vote on what role we should get, and I got development because of the purple out that I do here and how much I know about fundraising. Also, I felt really comfortable with it. I know who to talk to.

“I have a lot to look forward to doing this year, and I have a lot of stuff planned for Lee County as well.”

Belcher and Shirley also talked about the SADD National Conference in Arizona two weeks ago, which was Belcher’s first event as a council member.

Commission Chairman Billy Mathis congratulated Belcher on her accomplishments at the meeting.

“We’re always very, very proud of our young folks,” Mathis said.

La Fiesta returns to Wild Adventures Theme Park
La Fiesta is one of the most popular events at Wild Adventures Theme Park

VALDOSTA — Wild Adventures Theme Park is celebrating Hispanic and Latin American culture and cuisine during the sixth annual La Fiesta Saturday and Sunday.

“La Fiesta is one of our most popular events every year, and it’s an opportunity for our guests to experience traditional and contemporary music, dancing and food from throughout Mexico, Central America and South America,” Adam Floyd, marketing communications and public relations manager, said.

The two-day street festival begins at 10 a.m. Saturday as la Fuerza, a traditional mariachi band, welcomes guests to the park. The celebrations will continue at the La Fiesta town square near the entrance to Discover Outpost with several performers taking the stage, including Peruvian singer Iris, comedian Bota Fui, the Hispanic Heritage Dance Group, salsa dancers and more.

Food vendors will be offering traditional dishes and street food, including Dominican pupusas (cornmeal flatbread stuffed with pork, beans or cheese), tamales (steamed cornmeal dough stuffed with pork, cheese or other fillings), Jalisco-style tacos (corn tortillas filled with braised beef), elotes (Mexican street corn), durros de harina (puffed wheat pinwheels flavored with chili and lime), horchata de arroz (sweet rice drink flavored with vanilla and cinnamon), helados (traditional Mexican ice cream), tropical fruit desserts and more.

“We always encourage guests to bring a little extra pocket money during La Feista,” Floyd said. “Once you enter the park and experience the smell of the incredible food being prepared, you’ll get very hungry.”

La Fiesta celebrations are included with park admission or a season pass. Light Up the Sky in July also continues on Saturday, when Wild Adventures will present fireworks displays every remaining Saturday night throughout the month.

Wild Adventures Theme Park is home to more than 40 family and thrill rides, hundreds of exotic animals, dozens of concerts and special events each year and Splash Island Waterpark, named in 2018 as one of the “Top 30 Waterparks” in the country by U.S. News and World Report. Wild Adventures is ranked as the fifth-most affordable theme park in America in the Theme Park Price Index published by HomeToGo.

For more information about La Fiesta, Light Up the Sky in July and park operating hours, visit

Staff Photos: Joe Whitfield  

Terrell County head football coach Jack Harris works with his defense during Thursday’s practice after the Greenwave took part in a seven on seven against Terrell Academy.

Boys and Girls Club offers academic success to youth
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany practices three measures for success

ALBANY — The Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany held their fifth annual Big Blue Bus Tour on Thursday, allowing members of the public to familiarize themselves with what the organization has to offer.

The bus stopped at three locations, the Jane Willson Unit, the Jefferson Street Unit and the club at Thornton Park.

Witnessing children play shows the potential, but the club does not solely offer a place for them to play.

Children are at the centers from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and they are learning every step of the way. What may seem like a long time to an adult is just a short time of pure enjoyment for youngesters.

“There’s just so many things that kids can come and enjoy a full day at the Boys and Girls Club,” Area Director Jason Belk said.

Walking through the different centers, character is noticed within the organization. And that is one thing Belk said the organization surrounds itself with.

“We have three outcome measures that we try to meet everyday,” he said. “The (measures) are academic success, good character and citizenship, and the other is healthy lifestyles.”

Belk said there are numerous ways children are able to show the three measures of success because they are presented with the opportunity.

A quick fun fact to add is that when the boys and girls play a game of pool, the centers offer only one stick per game to allow the children to experience character building through the use of sharing with one another.

At the clubs, children also learn through behavioral outcomes and academic activities.

“With the STEM projects, we show (the children) what it will be like if they were to make a career out of what they enjoy most,” Director of Resource and Marketing Samala Carrington said.

“Our graduation rate for kids that attend the Boys and Girls Club that plan on graduating high school is 93 percent,” Belk said.

Because the organization’s graduation rate is so high, Belk said their expectations of success are set even higher and that they offer year-long classes at the club to expose children to the different avenues they can take.

There is more to explore when it comes to the club. Carrington said children adapt quickly to their environment and progress further when there is a mentor around to show them the steps to life.

“I think (the children’s) reaction to their mentors are positive,” she said. “We try to pair (the children) up with mentors that will be around for a while because the kids do get attached to the mentors.”

Belk said the increase in progress the boys and girls show at the center is mostly credited to CEO Marvin B. Laster because he devotes his time and energy in making sure the children are getting the best structural experience out of the club.

“Our goal here is to enable all young people who need us most, to reach their full potential and becoming productive, caring, and responsible citizens,” Belk said.

The organization has a special treat for the public to enjoy on Thursday. Carrington calls it the “End of Summer Celebration,” and it is from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at club located at 1309 N. Jefferson St.

For more information about becoming a member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany or about the celebration, individuals can stop by any of the three locations.

Albany addresses downtown pedestrian safety issue
It is estimated it will take six weeks for railing to be installed at a downtown Albany sidewalk

ALBANY — Orange cones that recently appeared in downtown Albany to mark a hazardous section of sidewalk will be replaced soon with safety railing.

“It’s a safety concern,” Albany Public Works Superintendent Donald McCook said after addressing the project at a meeting of the Downtown Development Authority.

McCook told board members that a pedestrian recently fell while walking in the area, and that it was not the first such mishap. The area he referred to has sections that slope and drop, and are near the site of two watering holes where some may exit a little wobbly on their feet.

“We had another fall right before the Fourth (of July),” McCook said.

The glass-beaded stainless steel railing will run along about half of the block on which The Albany Herald building is located. It will stretch along 400 feet of the sidewalk with openings for businesses from 108 Pine Ave. to the space once used as the The Herald’s circulation offices.

The project cost is $68,000 and will be funded with SPLOST dollars. McCook said the railing has been ordered, and the project has a completion date of up to eight weeks from the time it was ordered.

He estimated it will be in place in about six weeks.