Encouraging leadership

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 9, 2005

Special to the times-journal

Leadership Selma-Dallas County is a community development program that spun out of the need to prepare committed individuals for growth and development opportunities (personally and professionally).

This 10-month, experiential community leadership training program introduces diverse, intelligent and driven people to learn characteristics of themselves and the community they serve.

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Quality of life issues in our community are shown through site visits, presentations by corporate leaders, business leaders, political leaders, educators, healthcare professionals, etc.

For example, at the Cahaba Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center when you see the faces of the consumers working in a greenhouse, doing ceramics or taking pride in just making a bed it moves you in a way that words cannot capture.

Anyone can make a difference and this program empowers people to put their thoughts into action.

Group projects are decided upon collectively and these projects prepare students to translate their ideals into action for improving their own communities.

Sixty-five students (25 adults and 40 youth) are chosen annually each year through a highly competitive selection process.

They represent a broad range of racial, religious and economic backgrounds, ages, interests, and academic /work experience, but all are committed to excellence for Dallas County.

The adult and youth programs run on separate days but the format is similar for both programs exposing them to a diverse cross section of the county.

Leadership Selma-Dallas County is the community development arm for economic development (EDA).

At the Centre for Commerce, Wayne Vardaman, CEO for the EDA, Chamber of Commerce, Leadership and Tourism believes in a collective team approach where communication and knowledge are the keys to success.

Through his leadership, Team Selma comprised of the Senator, Mayor, Probate Judge as well as other key leaders including Vardaman have devised a model for success that leadership students can experience and see first hand the results of how a collaborative process can serve for the betterment of a community.

The primary focus for leadership programs is community development. It is about learning more about community so that a spirit of volunteerism will be instilled. Through this process, personal development components are merged in so that the experience is one of self-growth and development.

After graduation, alumni activities are an avenue to participate in &045; the youth leaders can be youth mentors coming back and leading groups participate in activities, devise projects.