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Chamber aims to nurture leadership
Kenny Smiley chamber
Kenny Smiley
A program that helps cultivate and shape the future leaders of Liberty County is being offered by the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and registration for the upcoming session is under way.
Leadership Liberty, a program designed by the Fanning Institute at the University of Georgia, gives participants an opportunity to learn leadership skills through interactive sessions. Students can network with local businesses and travel throughout the region while learning business development, economic development, education and tourism.
“Participants meet once or twice a month for 10 months and meet at different venues each time,” Kenny Smiley, executive director of the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, said. “Each session is one-day long. For example, in one of our previous courses the group went to Atlanta and met with the senator and sat in during one of their legislative sessions to learn about economic development at the state level.”
Smiley said that several years ago the chamber received a start-up grant to begin the program. The chamber designed and organized the program and it is currently entering its fourth year.
“According to the Fanning Institute, after a program has been in place for at least four years it becomes a sustaining program,” Smiley said. “We are really excited about completing this year and becoming a sustaining program for Liberty County.”
Kim Thomas and Leah Poole, both past alumni of the program, co-chair the committee and try to keep the programs fresh and inviting to the new participants and add new sessions as needed.
“The first session is the orientation session,” Thomas said. “That focuses on team building and getting to know each other, but also getting to learn a lot about yourself. You go through a low-ropes session, a high ropes session, you learn to trust, you develop teamwork,” she said.
“You do learn a lot about yourself. There are things that you look at and say there is no way I’ll be able to do that and then you do it and your classmates offer support and camaraderie,” Poole said.
Participants will have sessions with the city of Hinesville to study the city’s government and learn about their future visions of growth and opportunity.
Another session is at the countywide workshop in St. Simons. Students will also meet the school board and learn about the school system in Liberty County, and meet with the county commissioners and the development authority to learn about economic development, industrialism and tourism.
“You think you know all about your community, but there is so much I learned that I did not know. And I was born and raised here,” Thomas said.
Smiley said the group is as diverse as the community.
“In past courses, we had a librarian, a pastor, mom-and-pop business owners, lawyers. There is no set target audience for this program. It is for anyone and everyone who wants to learn and develop for themselves,” he said.
Poole and Thomas said they conduct surveys after each session and the feedback so far has been great.
“Some of the feedback we got from the community is that they enjoyed meeting the different folks and visiting the locations where the sessions are conducted,” Smiley said. “We also learned they wanted more leadership training and that they so we are adding modules for communication and skill development. Each module is a 2-1/2-hour session.”
The course costs $675 but that price includes lodging, travel, meals and all course materials.
Registration applications are available at the Chamber of Commerce office, or you may call Smiley at 368-4445 for registration and course information.
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