By Joel Hall
For four years, the Grassroots Leadership Institute has given passionate locals the tools they need to become effective community leaders.
The program, operated by the Clayton County Cooperative Extension, is currently accepting applications for its next class of participants.
Applications are due by June 5. Starting in September, participants will take a 12-week course, learning -- among other things -- the ins and outs of Clayton County government, board meeting etiquette, and effective leadership.
Kim Siebert, director of the Clayton County Cooperate Extension, said the purpose of the institute is to give citizens the basic skills to "navigate the waters" of Clayton County, effectively.
"I think probably the biggest issue [for individuals wanting to be involved in the county] is learning how to connect those systems in place, and work within those systems," Siebert said. "Some people don't know where to start, and out of frustration, they may try to affect change in an ineffective way. The mission is to provide basic leadership skills for those people who have natural leadership abilities. It is geared at helping people with those skills that they need when they find themselves in a leadership role."
The course work, set by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership at the University of Georgia in Athens, covers a multitude of topics, including: Effective leadership and leadership styles; effective communication; economic development; board leadership; running an effective meeting (Robert's Rules of Order); building group consensus; conflict resolution; problem-solving; leading community change; and understanding poverty issues.
According to Siebert, many of the classes will be taught by local elected officials and community leaders skilled in those areas.
The program has helped develop several county leaders, including: Cyd Cox, president of the Clayton County Council of PTAs; Charlton Bivins, a member of the Clayton County School Board; Larry O'Keeffe, a member of the Clayton County Board of Education Ethics Commission; and Adolphus Graves, chief of staff for the Clayton County Juvenile Court.
Cox, who actively recruits for the program, said the institute affords average citizens the skills "to reach their dreams" and "make an impact in the county."
"The first class included grant writing, parliamentary procedures ... If you are a leader, it touched on everything that you would need to know," Cox said. "It will allow [participants] to hone their leadership skills, and it gives them contacts within the county to get things done. You know what to say, without aggravating people."
Graves said the class allowed him to "sharpen" his leadership skills. "I'm big on training, and thought it would be a great opportunity to strengthen what skills I already have," he said. "You're learning from elected officials. It's a great opportunity to network with people who are where you want to be."
The classes allow people "to turn their passion into purpose," Graves said.
The application fee for the Grassroots Leadership Institute is $25, and there is a $25 fee for those chosen, to cover the cost of materials. Twenty applicants will be selected.
For more information, visit www.claytoncollab.org/GRLI/GRLI.htm, or call (770) 473-5444.