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Emerging Public Leaders

Emerging Public Leaders (EPL) Impacts Lives 

Through the leadership training and service learning of high school students, Emerging Public Leaders creates young community leaders who will influence their peers, their schools, and ultimately the cities and towns where they live; their training and commitment is helping to bring hope and change to the rural and low-income communities of our state. Emerging Public Leaders in South Carolina learn not only how to lead, but how to lead in an increasingly diverse state.


Emerging Public Leaders (EPL), launched in 2003 by the Riley Institute, is an intensive, statewide, and service-oriented leadership program for 16 rising high school seniors across South Carolina.


Each June, EPL welcomes 16 rising high school seniors from across South Carolina to Furman’s campus for its week-long service-leadership training. EPL has recently retooled its curriculum to enhance the program’s focus on leadership in diverse communities. During their week at Furman, EPL participants meet with Furman faculty, community leaders, and service organizations where they gain skills to improve their leadership abilities in diverse settings, engage their communities, analyze critical issues, lead ethically, and communicate effectively.

Following the summer, students work with Institute staff, school officials, and residents in their communities to more fully develop their service project ideas and subsequently implement projects that reflect a need in their communities. The EPL students’ impact is magnified by the number of fellow students, school administrators, and community members they involve in the planning and implementation of their service projects. 

The students return to campus the following spring to present their community service projects. Service projects that are deemed sustainable and having long lasting impact are awarded prize money to continue.

Community Action Projects

To view community projects initiated by past participants, click here.


The impact of EPL on its participants and communities is substantial. Along with completing their public service projects, this select group of rising high school seniors are considering colleges for their undergraduate degree. Since its inception in 2003, 100% of EPL students have attended college.  

To view past participants' college choices, click here.

Quotes from EPL’s various alumni who have gone on to accomplish great things in their lives and their communities.

EPL was an incredible experience that taught me so much and gave me friends from all across the state.  Working on this project solidified my choice to pursue a career in education and helped me uncover the passion I have for education.”

Jennie Allen, Class of 2017-2018

“Thank you Riley Institute and the Emerging Public Leaders program for encouraging me to make a difference in my community and finally bringing my vision for a community garden to reality.”

Mary Laurel Patrick, Class of 2017-2018

“EPL taught me the importance of not being the source of empowerment, but rather, leading the way to have others empower themselves.”

Farehaa Hussain, Class of 2017-2018

"Attending EPL was a truly life-changing experience-- the leadership skills acquired in the program along with the relationships made with the EPL staff and participants will last a lifetime.”

Manning Snyder, Class of 2017-2018

Further information may be acquired from Melanie Armstrong, Program Director, at 864.294.3688 or at