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New leadership class begins in Selma

Right, Tommy Atchison, chairman of the board of directors of Leadership Selma-Dallas County, informed members of class XVII of the purpose of the program and what to expect in the upcoming year. New members will attend a retreat at the 4-H center in Columbiana until Saturday. -- Laura Fenton photo

SELMA — Before the Leadership Selma-Dallas County Class XVII left for a team building retreat Friday, Class XV member Fred Zeigler offered them advice.

“One of the greatest things that I have found in Selma Leadership is that we don’t see ourselves as going in to fix somebody’s problem,” Zeigler said. “We see ourselves as collaborating, cooperating and engaging the community and helping the community to help themselves.”

The 21 new members of the service organization began their community involvement at a two-day retreat to the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana.

“They’ll learn about themselves and their personality types because if you understand more about yourself, then you can better understand how you relate to others,” said Carolyn Powell, leadership director.

Members must first create group cohesion before addressing a class project or issues within the community.

“Unless you have built a team, you’re not going to get anything done,” Powell said.

The retreat also serves as a means to allow members to become comfortable with one another.

“Whenever you are passing a hula-hoop with your body, it breaks down the ‘hey, my name is’ stuff,” said Tommy Atchison, chairman of the board of directors. “That’s what this whole retreat thing is about. It is about getting them radically close fast so you get through all the stuff that normally hinders people from communicating.”

Jeff Harrison, commercial collection officer at Bank Trust and member of class XVII, is exited to meet new people and learn more about Selma so he can make a difference in the community.

“The more you interact with people and the more people you know, the better off you are and the more you can do for them,” Harrison said.

Edith Harris, sheet room process manager at International Paper and member of class XVII, became involved with the program for herself and her work.

“I came here to learn more about the community, and International Paper works a lot with the community, so it is to get more involved and show them we care about what goes on in Selma,” Harris said.

Class members meet about once a month for 10 months before graduating from the program. Leadership Selma-Dallas County started in 1995.