Leadership Selma-Dallas County

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 16, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

The 23 members of Class XII, Leadership Selma-Dallas County represent a large and varied segment of local business and industry, which includes manufacturing, banking, health services, utility companies, timber and woodland, and county and city government.

Under the direction of Caroline Powell, the organization has set goals and objectives; among them:

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To foster interest in community and voluntary activities,

To provide participants with greater understanding of community issues through interaction with peers, community leaders and decision makers from all segments,

To encourage self-recognition of potential and to assist in developing leadership skills,

To expose participants to resources available within the community,

To further stimulate interest by working on humane, social and economic problems as they exist in the real world,

To learn effective leadership and problem solving skills, gain self-confidence and experience the difference you can make in the community and in the lives of others.

Chief among the leadership objectives is the strengthening of a life-long bond to Selma-Dallas County and the state of Alabama.

Its history dates back to 1990 when the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Auburn University Economic Development Institute secured a grant of $967,000 from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The grant was to be used in partnership with the leadership in five West Alabama counties to create community leadership teams and mentoring programs for economic development.

Auburn University matched the grant with more than $400,000 in in-kind services.

Working through County Extension Agents in Dallas, Lowndes, Butler, Perry and Wilcox counties.

Teams were recruited to undergo two years of intensive leadership training in 1992 and 1993 with curriculum developed by multi-disciplinary teams of state universities.

The first class of Leadership Selma-Dallas County was formed on Nov. 7, 1995, under the leadership of Mike Hungerpillar and Terry Pritchett.

In June 2001, Carolyn S. Powell was named director, a position she holds to date.

“Building a Bridge for the Future” is the slogan of Leadership Selma-Dallas County, “which is a model for success: leading the way,” according to Powell.

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

“Quality of life issues in the community are shown through a series of site visits and presentations by corporate leaders, business leaders, political leaders, educators and healthcare professionals,” she said.

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

Each year, 65 students (25 adults and 40 youth) are chosen annually through a highly competitive selection process.

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

Both programs expose participants to a diverse cross section of the county.

Among these: Cahaba Mental Health Center consumers in their greenhouses; the positive environment for children at United Methodist Children’s Home; SABRA Sanctuary for the victims of domestic violence; interaction with Selma’s mayor and Dallas County’s probate judge; speaking with Sheriff Harris Huffman and prisoners at the county jail, a memorable experience for Youth Leadership.

Leadership Selma-Dallas County is the community development arm for EDA (economic development) at the Centre for Commerce, where CEO Wayne Vardaman believes in a collective team approach as the key to success.

Under his guidance, Team Selma, comprised of the senator, mayor, probate judge and other key leaders has devised for success that Leadership students can experience and see first hand the results of how a collaborative process betters a community.

Leadership Selma-Dallas County has had a number of projects that made a difference: the Christmas Parade, American Cancer Society Relay for Life, American Red Cross, Career Days at seven high schools, Crime Stoppers, nursing home projects and Feed the Children.

Even after graduation, Leadership Selma-Dallas County continues to network in its diverse group of alumni, which is given the opportunity for continuous involvement in adult and youth programs through service on the Board of Directors as well as Day Chairs for the monthly programs.

Additionally, continuing education programs (Alumni Luncheons) feature speakers on timely issues through the year.