MOULTRIE -- Surfing online, Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amanda Statom found money to shore up a student mentoring program that lures some of the county's most promising right back to where they started from.

Statom secured a $10,000 economic development initiative grant from the Georgia Rural Economic Development Center to help fund Leadership Colquitt County -- a project developed through the chamber's Workforce Committee. The 20-year-old program, which is offered every other year, encourages a secondary education but the emphasis is to get juniors and seniors to come back to Colquitt County after they get their degrees and build bright futures right at home. Twenty students and 20 mentors will make up this year's program.

"I wrote it from my heart. I love this community and think that we are sending off our best commodities, which are our children. You have to sink your heart and soul into them to get their heart and soul back. So, when I wrote the grant, I was very honest about Moultrie and what a wonderful place it is and why wouldn't they want to give us this money," Statom said Monday.

Two years ago, the chamber had a one-time grant through Moultrie Technical College that covered much of the program's expense, but the chamber can reapply for the economic development grant year after year, Statom said. The cost for adult participants is $250 for participation from January through the end of the school year. The grant should cover student costs that in years past had to be donated by sponsors, she said.

In addition to getting the inside scoop on some of Moultrie's industries and cultural facilities, participants also will travel to the Georgia capitol to observe the state's legislative process in action.

Students typically are nominated by teachers. Mentors can nominate themselves or usually are nominated by their employers. Although the deadline for nominating students has passed, Statom said the Workforce Committee will continue to accept nominations this week.

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