Thursday, July 5, 2007
Grads praise leadership experience
By SUE WATSON
The Leadership Marshall County Class of 2007 was small but vibrant, according to Janet Jolley with the Marshall County Extension Service. This year’s class started out with 22 members and graduated 21 last week, one member having to drop out.
“The curriculum is pretty much the same year to year, with some changes in speakers,” she said. “I think this group was a little more enthusiastic and represented a good cross-section of the county.”
Mary Frances Buchanan with Citizens Bank of Byhalia didn’t expect the classes to be anything like they were.
“I enjoyed most of the topics, but the thing I thought I would not enjoy were the group projects,” she said. “But these turned out to be the most interesting and entertaining parts of the course. Everyone got involved and we had a lot of fun.”
Buchanan was impressed with classmates and with what she learned about the county’s resources.
“I made a lot of new friends and am looking forward to seeing them more,” she said. “I learned more about the county. I have lived here all my life and never knew what we have to offer.”
The most surprising moment for Buchanan came when she realized how passionate classmates were about education and their desire to improve the quality of education in the county.
“It was surprising to see such a consensus on the topic,” she said.
Dr. Russell Mauk, with the Family Wellness Clinic of Chiropractic in Holly Springs, was surprised at the number of new friends he made who were also his neighbors. He learned that leaders do not have to be elected to office to lead.
“I expected to learn about community development, social involvement, government and the people,” Mauk said. “What I didn’t expect was to make 30 friends and learn we have an incredible county with enormous potential. We can all take part in our community, schools and local government for the betterment of all.”
Mauk said he was impressed by the book reports presented by fellow classmates on the many facets that define leaders.
“Leaders are not restricted to men of education,” he said. “No, our leaders come from every facet of life - coaches, teachers, moms, ministers and you. We were a diverse people who became a group of friends and individuals with open minds.
“What caught me off guard is how much our county has changed in 25 years. The development in Byhalia and Barton amazed me. The tourist attractions, such as Strawberry Plains, are no doubt well guarded treasures that are becoming available on a grand scale.”
The most informative part of the six-month course, to Mauk, was that Mississippi Small Business Development Center offers assistance to anyone who wants to start up a small business at no fee.
“The goal is to develop one’s community and encourage successful entrepreneurs,” he said.
Betty Yates, with Rust College/Marshall County workforce training center, was hooked right away with the film and ideas presented in “Fish Philosophy.”
A later module on Confronting Racism brought unexpected surprises. Yates said before the session got started she thought she wouldn’t like the module.
“It was so interesting seeing and feeling the seriousness of the way racism was perceived,” she said.
A new friendship bloomed between Yates and Bud Garrett, both educators.
Garrett, a retired educator, is joining Yates in tackling some of the workforce training and educational problems in Holly Springs and Marshall County.
Yates said she expected to gain better insight into governing processes and the course did shed more light on how city and county government works.
The visit to Strawberry Plains Audubon Center was a most surprising moment, Yates said.
Edna West, with Williams Clinic, liked the different points of view brought out in class. Another favorite was the study of racial diversity using the Jelly Bean concept - the color of the beans are not important and each has its own unique flavor.
West said she plans to stay involved - keep in contact with classmates and join the chamber of commerce.
The biggest surprise, West said, came when taking the bus tour of the county.
“I’ve lived here all my life and I didn’t know about all the beautiful places and tourism,” she said. “Learning about the county was very exciting.”
Donna Olita, with the tax assessor’s office, got hooked on the study of leadership styles using books and videos and group encounters.
“It was interesting to hear everyone’s description of what they think they are,” she said. “Mine was survivor.”
She also liked the group projects and exercises and the rotation of class members each month into a new study group.
The most surprising moment for Olita was hearing some of the older generation tell about some obstacles they faced during their lives.
She expected to learn how to help the community and about leadership.
“I did not expect to bond with so many people who have similar ideas,” Olita said.
Holly Springs Alderman Russell Johnson liked the survey of county resources and needs.
The group decided the number one need was having a quality education system for all, Johnson said.
He also liked the module on the economic outlook and profile of the county and the concept of moving from talk to action.
Johnson’s favorite topics turned out to be the Mississippi Main Street Project, historic preservation and the design of a plan for economic development.
Like other classmates, the session on race relations was a surprising, informative, and emotional day.
“People had a chance to express what they feel, and this enabled us to better understand the cultures that exist in this county,” Johnson said.
Shirley Byers was most impressed with the topic “What Color Is Your Jellybean?” and the sesson that addressed race relations.
She unexpectedly enjoyed the topic communicating for change.
“It taught me the art of truly listening, rather than thinking about my next comments or daydreaming in the middle of someone’s conversation,” Byers said.
She expected to learn leadership skills and more about Marshall County.
“My belief is that a leader must continuously learn in order to be effective,” Byers said.
Other members of the 2007 class are Johnnie Bagley, Mike Bradford, Pamela Burleson, Andrea Chrestman, Garrie Colhoun, Bud Garrett, Doris Lee, Chris Liddy, Beth Overall, Barbara Redditt, Jennifer Rowland, Terry Sawyer, Elvira Stevens and Jessica Woods.
Leadership 2007 was funded solely by the registration fees, Jolley said.
But in-kind contributions of time and resources were provided by the Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce, the Marshall County Board of Supervisors, and the Extension Service.
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