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Emerging Public Leaders

Emerging Public Leaders (EPL) Impacts Lives 

Emerging Public Leaders Program 2018 - 19
June 17 - 22, 2018
 To apply, click here

Thanks to a generous grant from the Duke Energy Foundation, in 2016 Emerging Public Leaders (EPL) accepted a second cohort of 12 students called Emerging Diversity Leaders (EDL) that was encompassed within EPL. EPL permanently changed its curriculum to bring a special focus to leading in our 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.


EPL and EDL students convene for a week on campus each June where they investigate topics such as engaging in the community, analyzing critical issues, practicing ethical leadership, developing communication and presentation skills, and planning for the implementation of a service project. New curriculum will include sessions that address leadership in diverse settings, the importance of different perspectives when making decisions, and how valuing and understanding differences among each other leads to a stronger South Carolina. 

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 students return to campus the following spring to present their community service projects.

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.

To view past participants' college choices, click here.

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

 “EPL was my first interaction with Furman, and the experience really made "engaged learning" come to life for me. I was surrounded by people who cared about their community--particularly who cared about our great state. The experience made me acutely aware of the great responsibility I have for my community. EPL made me want to be a leader and gave me the building blocks: foresight, follow-through & friendships.”

Alyssa Richardson, currently enrolled at Harvard Law School

The service project I completed during EPL, was very influential to me. One elderly woman whom my service project served, died shortly after the program ended. She expressed gratitude for our work and our relationship. I wrote about it in my application to medical school and will always remember it.

Stephen Mill, currently a graduate student at MUSC

I still count applying to EPL as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life!

Monica Handa, attorney

As a rising high school senior, EPL was a great eye opener for me, showing what's possible in the public sector and introducing me to like-minded people intent on making a difference in the world. I know some of the other kids I attended with are super impressive: two go to Princeton (I've seen one quoted in the New York Times), one is the student body president at Clemson. Seeing these kids and what they are doing on Facebook is always motivating me to do more.

Tony Traina, attending law school next year

EPL has definitely taught some of the required fundamentals in order to be a visionary leader, including (but not limited to): being able to communicate effectively, evaluating myself as a person, creating a vision, and being able to communicate my vision.” 

Adia Louden, Claflin University

EPL was an opportunity to meet some wonderful people, discuss the public service sector, and explore the idea of "think global, act local" in a fun way. We learned how to envision a community service project and turn that vision into reality. By presenting the results of our project a year later, we also learned how to communicate our ideas well and that we should be held accountable for our ideas. I've carried the lessons I've learned from EPL with me into my work in education.”

Athena Lao, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria

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