By Lynn Jones
Founded in 1976 as a vehicle to stimulate the growth of local leaders, Leadership Jacksonville’s class of 2018 recently culminated their annual year long training curriculum graduating 56 community members enlightened and informed change agents.
The highly competitive program focuses on giving a diverse class base unique professional and social experiences through training initiatives, speakers, hands on volunteerism and teamwork. Held monthly, programs days included dialogues on topics including education, poverty, arts and culture, justice, health, leadership and economic growth.
The planned program days provided members an opportunity to learn new aspects of local culture and history that they may have not known. Participants also had opportunities to engage and learn from area non-profits, corporate CEOs and civic leaders.
The 42nd Class of Leadership Jax, was dubbed “the most inquisitive class” this side of A1A. The 56 member class included Hindu, Muslim, Black, Jews, Hispanic and White Classmates.
Annual participants are either referred to the program or submit an application for review. Those selected for the next step undergo an interview and hopefully receive good news from the highly competitive program.
“Being a member of an elite group of local leaders that included corporate executives, community activists, attorneys, public administrators, LGBQT activists and more, was an awesome experience.”
She did see the lack of people of color as a downside for the leadership training which was 75% white.
“My one stark critique is the lack of participation from African American males. For an esteemed program that has been in the community for 42 years, the participants selected don’t adequately represent our local community,” she said. For example, out of 131 applicants for the 2018 class, only one African American male was selected to participate.
Statistically speaking the ratio of black women in the program reinforces recent statistics that black women are vastly outpacing African American men as college graduates and have become the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs.
Many of my classmates entered the program with a glass house mentality and left with walls torn down and new prospective about local culture and the importance of diversity were established. Participates fears and phobias were also erased through honest conversations.
The classmates heard first hand from those stricken by poverty, crime, educational disparities and even food deserts.
“Programs like Leadership Jax can make this community more connected and educated on how uniquely diverse we really are, so those opposite ends of town will not be blinded by the mainstreams medias reporting of drive by’s and mass school shootings,” Jones says.
Stereotypes are easy to develop and hard to break down. For the classmates of leadership Jacksonville, barriers are broken down by cultivating leaders full potential by exposing them to life in Jacksonville and each other.