The Clayton County Chamber of Commerce held its "Leadership Clayton 2011 Commencement Ceremony," on Thursday, and it was an evening of support and celebration for 15 new leaders.
Smiles were shared, hugs were exchanged, and the word "congratulations" seemed to echo throughout the venue.
Rosetta Mindingall said she came to support her friend, Tangela Martin, who was a graduate of the 2010-2011 class of Leadership Clayton. Mindingall said Martin works for the Georgia Power Company, and that she is extremely proud of her friend.
"She is a hard-working person, a goal-driven person," said Mindingall.
Other graduates were: Jenell Calloway, of Fairfield Inn & Suites Marriott; Deborah Collins, of Comcast; Scherita Cowens, of the Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services; Keith Gammage, of the Clayton County Office of the Solicitor General; Bess Garrett, of the Tommy Nobis Center; Tavan Jones, of Northrop Grumman; Charlene McCracken, of The Decorum Group; Sena' McEachin, of the Internal Revenue Service; Tamika McLester, of Reach-Teach, Inc.; Paula Mickens, formerly of the Clayton County Office of the Solicitor General; Melody Totten; of Emory University; Anthony Washington, of On-Site Computer Training; Tameka West, of The West Legal Group, P.C.; and Lisa Williams, of On-Site Computer Training.
Graduate Keith Gammage said he was attracted to Leadership Clayton, because he had a desire to collaborate with others to improve the community. "It was an opportunity to work ... toward improving the overall image of the county," he said.
Gammage said participants were assigned class projects, and were split into two groups, which had to develop an organization that would benefit, and better, the community.
He was a part of group No. 1, he said, which was composed of eight participants of the class. The group created Go Green Clayton, a non-profit organization that will educate youths about the importance of taking care of the environment.
"One of the key concerns is the environment, and the best way to change our habits, we believe, is to start with young people," he said.
The eco-friendly organization will reach out to youngsters collaborating with two, local, pilot schools, in August, he said. The schools are Sequoyah Middle School, in Riverdale, and Pointe South Middle School, in Jonesboro. The organization will advise science teachers at these schools about the program. One science teacher from each school will volunteer to include the program as an extracurricular activity in the classroom, he said.
Tameka West, also a graduate, said group No. 2 created the Clayton County Leads Adults and Children in Wellness organization. The organization will be a non-profit entity, and will educate the community about the importance of dieting, exercising and having healthy eating habits. The major reason behind that choice is because the No. 1 cause of death is heart disease, she said.
The group will partner with companies that want to achieve the same goal as the organization, to conduct workshops and other outreach activities for the community, said West.
"We want to educate our citizens to take leadership in their health," she said.
Yulonda Beauford, president and CEO of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, said Leadership Clayton is a leadership-development program that has been sponsored the chamber since 1972. The nine-month program broadens participants' knowledge of community issues, hones their leadership skills, and challenges them to tackle these issues.
"The Leadership Clayton program is designed to develop a better understanding of Clayton County," she said.
The commencement ceremony also included special recognition for two selected graduates. Charlene McCracken received the Leadership Award, and Melody Totten was given the Regional Leadership Institute Award, which will allow her to attend the Atlanta Regional Commission's Regional Leadership Institute, a comprehensive, leadership program that addresses regional issues.