By Joel Hall
In an effort to develop future leaders, the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce is seeking participants for its 2009-10 Leadership Clayton class. Applications for the civic-leadership class are being accepted until July 17.
Since the first Leadership Clayton class in 1972, hundreds of the county's elected officials, business leaders and entrepreneurs have graduated from the program. According to Angela Redding, who has chaired the Leadership Clayton Advisory Board for five years, the class introduces aspiring leaders to the inner-workings of local and state government.
"We realize that in order to continue to build our community, we need strong leaders and people who really care about the community," Redding said. Leadership Clayton "was created to expose local professionals and entrepreneurs to the contacts they need to become part of the future leaders of the county. It teaches them how to become a part of the community and how to go about making a difference."
Through the nine-month course, Leadership Clayton participants receive guidance and instruction from local and state leaders in the fields of economic development, health care and social services, education, state government, the courts, and regional development. Monthly excursions include a visit to the state Capitol, Clayton County schools, Clayton State University, and Southern Regional Medical Center, and a meeting with the Clayton County legislative delegation.
"Usually, once an individual completes that program, the individual becomes part of the community and impacts it in a positive way," Redding said. "We have a lot of issues that need to be addressed and the more people who are educated and know which direction to go to address the issues, the more it will benefit Clayton County."
In addition to course work, each Leadership Clayton class is divided into two teams, each tasked with implementing a unique, sustainable project to benefit the county. According to Yulonda Beauford, president and CEO of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, programs such as the Rainbow House shelter and Keep Clayton County Beautiful, Inc., were born from the efforts of Leadership Clayton participants.
"The class members are actually involved in class projects, so not only are they getting education ... as a group, they are developing things to benefit Clayton County," Beauford said. "It really fosters wanting to be more involved in the community. A lot of the time, after the class, they ask, 'how can we continue to be involved?'"
Tommy Green, a 2006-07 graduate of Leadership Clayton, was elected to the Lovejoy City Council in 2007. He said the class is "one of the best things I ever did."
Prior to being elected, "I had been involved in my neighborhood and my community to a small degree, but started wondering what made things move within the county," Green said. "If you want to make a difference in the county and the state, it's driven by relationships, and Leadership Clayton allowed me to develop those relationships."
"It's a great incubator for future leadership," he said.
Tuition fees for the nine-month Leadership Clayton course are $650. Participants must either live, or work, in Clayton County. To download the application, visit www.claytonchamber.org.