Graduates are prepared to lead

Graduates are prepared to lead

Twelve participate in leadership class commencement

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Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 4:00 am

Dawn Brown, executive director for the Community Foundation of Grant County, served as speaker for the commencement of the 2012-2013 Leadership Grant County Class.

Photo by Jeff Morehead
Community Foundation Executive Director Dawn Brown talks about the importance of reading for community leaders, during the Leadership Grant County graduation Tuesday at the Thompson-Ray House in Gas City. “You should read at least six professional books a year,” Brown told the graduates. “It will really change the way that you lead.”

The event was held Tuesday in Gas City’s historic Thompson-Ray House, and Brown provided the graduates with a David Lettermen-esque Top 10 list of what they need to accomplish as graduates.

First, “give back to the community, because people know who you are, and it’s expected,” she said.

Second, she advised, “Be nice,” because you’d be surprised how much it matters.

Third, “Every time you go somewhere, you need to learn something,” she said.

Brown spoke of her “3,2,1” method or writing down three things learned from the event, then telling two people about them, and then implementing “what you’ve learned immediately.”

Tim Harris, who heads up Lead, Inc., said the leadership program was once under the auspices of the Marion-Grant County Chamber of Commerce, but it’s since transferred to Lead, Inc.

The program had 12 graduates this year, and Harris said they cap it at 20.

Students attend the class one day per month for eight months, he said, and each class has a topic which exposes students to the community and builds leadership character.

For commerce and industry day, they tour local businesses. For government day, they tour the state capital. For criminal justice day, they are led around the Marion Police Department.

Students also need to serve on a board in the community, and they need to help plan at least one of the classes, Harris said.

Brown also told the graduates to “Find people you know who need to meet each other, and then introduce them on a professional level.”

She told them to read at least six professional books per year, “Because leaders are readers.”

The course is $350 per person, Harris said, but many businesses pay the fee for their employees.

He thanked those businesses, “Because (paying) means you believe in this program as much as we do.”

Brown told the graduates to not let great be the enemy of good.

“Don’t settle for good,” she said.

She also told them to “lead from wherever you are.”

“It’s hard, but you can lead from the middle.”

After the class ends, “So many people say they had no idea how many positive things were going on in the Grant County community,” Harris said. “I hope they become leaders in the community, in their families, and in their organizations.”

Salvation Army Lt. Jason Bigelow graduated Tuesday, and he’s also a board member of Lead, Inc.

He said he took the class, because he thought it would be “an excellent way to learn more about the community.”

“Everything I learned in the two years (since moving here), I learned even more through this class,” he said. “The tours and the chance to interact with all the people there was beneficial.”

Photo by Jeff Morehead
Tim Harris, left, and Jerry Long hand out framed certificates to graduates, including Mike Dominisse, right, during the Leadership Grant County graduation Tuesday at the Thompson-Ray House in Gas City.


Kellie Engelman works with the Affordable Housing Corporation, and she said, “The tours were an awesome part of the experience, and I especially loved touring the factories.”

Marion Police Chief David Gilbert said he was the first police officer to complete the program — about a decade ago — and he finds it so valuable that, “We’ve had a commitment to get department employees in the program for several years in a row.”

Gilbert said he took the class because he believed he “needed to improve” in the area of leadership.

Cliff Sessoms, deputy chief of operations, had also taken the course previously.

He said he particularly enjoyed the networking aspect, the ability to learn about and meet people in the community.

“You really don’t appreciate what all is in the community until you actually go into people’s places of employment,” he said.

Deputy Chief of Patrol David Day also had taken the class previously, and his favorite part was the visit to the statehouse.

He stayed to listen to the governor’s State of the State address, and he met with different representatives and senators.

“I also got to take my oldest son, Tanner, who was in high school, so that was a great experience,” Day said.

This year, the police sent the chief’s secretary, Stacey Konazeski.

“I grew up in Grant County my whole life, but I still learned a lot about what’s been here for years,” she said. “My favorite part was showing off my department, of course.”

Brown reminded the graduates that, “The air is very thin on the high road.”

“It’s not always easy to do the right thing,” she said.

“Do something for someone else that no one has done for you,” Brown said. “Build another generation to sustain what we’ve created.”

The 10th and final tip was, “Do things bigger than yourself.”

“Those are the things you should say ‘yes’ to,” Brown concluded.

Harris said that, because this program has proved to be so successful, and because, “alums of this program always ask me for an advanced program,” they hope to launch an Advanced Leadership Class this fall.


He said the format would be “totally different” than the current class, and it would be aimed primarily at people who have already completed the first course.

There would be six half-day sessions, and it would be “totally leadership-driven,” he said.

Harris added that a community leader would facilitate each discussion, and that person would also pitch the class on his or her community project.

At the end of the six meetings, the class would pick a project from those six pitches, and they would set about accomplishing that community project.

Bigelow and Engelman both expressed interest in the program, if they could “find the time.”

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