By Joel Hall
In anticipation of its fourth class of graduates, the Grassroots Leadership Institute is once again searching the community for leaders it can develop.
From now until Aug. 1, the organization is accepting applications for its 12-week training program. The course, offered through the Clayton County Cooperative Extension Service, takes those with leadership potential and teaches them how to be more effective, according to Kim Siebert, director of the Extension Service.
"Our purpose, as we defined it, is to prepare a generation of leaders for future community challenges," said Siebert. "This is for people who want to assume leadership roles, but may have never had any formal training."
Whereas Leadership Clayton, hosted by the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, assumes that applicants have certain leadership skills, said Siebert, Grassroots Leadership Institute takes participants through the basics of Robert's Rules of Order, facilitating successful meetings and building consensus.
"Our intent is to prepare these natural leaders with the skills they need to be effective advocates and contributors to their community," said Siebert.
She said the program's curriculum comes directly from the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership at the University of Georgia. Students also get to view state government at the Capitol for a day and learn about local government from local, elected officials.
Marie Barber, chair of the board of directors for the Grassroots Leadership Institute, said graduates have left the program to assume key positions on many county boards. Graduating from the program herself in 1995, when it was called the Neighborhood Grassroots Institute and offered by Clayton State University, Barber said the institute opened the door to her community involvement.
"Now I serve on the Clayton County Water Authority board, because I was involved in the leadership institute," said Barber. "I serve on many other boards in the county, and this is how I got involved.
"It gives the students those tools they need to get started being involved in the community," Barber added.
Cyd Cox, vice chair of the Clayton County Collaborative authority, as well as the president of the Clayton County Council of PTAs, said the Grassroots Leadership Institute was what she used to "expand" her leadership skills. She said the structure of the class will keep enthusiastic activists from "flying by the seat of their pants."
"There are a lot of people in the community who are doing things, but they are not plugged in and they don't know how to organize," said Cox. The class "made me more aware of the politics in the county" and "more aware of how to navigate through county government and get things done."
The class will hold 12 weekly sessions, starting Sept. 9 and ending Dec. 2. Aug. 28 will be a meet-and-greet with 2008 class participants, alumni and board members.
To apply, download the application from www.claytoncollab.org or www.co.clayton.ga.us/extension. The application can be mailed to the Clayton County Extension Service at 1262 Government Circle, Jonesboro, Ga., 30236 (attention: Grassroots Leadership Institute) or it can be e-mailed to email@example.com.
There is a $25 fee this year to cover food and class materials. For more information, call (770) 473-3947.