Dr. Cynthia F. Pilcher, Hendrix, James, Chaney, John A., Dooley, Sanford B. | 4/19/2005 10:29:19 PM
The training sessions were just one part of statewide efforts in which LSU AgCenter agents are teaching people how to improve their communities – with educational sessions on topics ranging from tourism to character development.
Dr. Cynthia Pilcher, an LSU AgCenter community economic development agent in Central Louisiana, said the ongoing Vidalia sessions – which are operating under the title of Strategic Adult Leadership Training – will cover a similar variety of topics.
The members of the SALT program, as it is called, recently participated in a familiarization tour of a local hunting and tourism site known as Giles Island. They also participated in leadership training activities that focused primarily on team-building. "These activities are helpful to develop the leadership potential, encourage working relationships, build character and trust in a group of people," said LSU AgCenter 4-H agent James Hendrix from Tensas Parish, who led the team building activities.
During some of those activities, participants were divided into teams and were encouraged to learn from one another as they observed the teams’ skills and the methods used by them to process scenarios given to the groups.
Hendrix said such participatory exercises help participants to understand the importance of planning and communication in community development projects.
"It only takes one person to cause a problem with the success of a community project," Hendrix stressed about the importance of team-building skills.
While team building was the focus of the first sessions, Pilcher said other topics to be covered during the monthly educational sessions for the SALT group include decision making, consensus building, conflict resolution, ethical leadership, developing communication skills, stress management, parliamentary procedure and strategic planning.
She also said familiarization tours of other successful enterprises in the area also will be conducted each month.
Participants in the Vidalia area leadership academy work or reside in the Vidalia and Natchez area and represent a cross section of people from the area businesses, community organizations and agencies from the Miss-Lou area.
"I am pleased to know there is a cooperative multi-state effort in this community leadership training effort," said LSU AgCenter regional director Dr. Robert Hutchinson, who is responsible for supervising AgCenter research and extension work in Northeast Louisiana. "There are many advantages of including representatives of several parishes, regions and/or states in training meetings like this one."
While the 10-week, 30-hour program being conducted in the Vidalia area is known as SALT, its concepts are similar to a long-term Community Leadership and Economic Development program that’s been offered by the LSU AgCenter in communities across Louisiana.
The programs offer an opportunity for interested citizens and community leaders to learn leadership skills and then apply those skills to develop plans for addressing major issues in their communities.
To date, the CLED program has been completed in the parishes of Acadia, Beauregard, Claiborne, Concordia, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Grant, Iberia, Livingston, Jackson, Jeff Davis, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Pointe Coupee, Sabine, St. Mary, Vernon and Washington. Classes will be conducted this fall in Desoto Parish and the town of Zachary.
"Since the CLED program started, more than 700 people have taken the classes," said LSU AgCenter economic development professor Dr. Sandy Dooley. "Of those, 30 percent have run for or were appointed to an office, commission or so forth, and 80 percent report they have been involved in community projects since completing the classes."
Developing leadership skills and learning about the resources in a community can be important steps in the economic development of the area, according to the LSU AgCenter experts.
"We hope the leadership classes will arm the participants with the communication skills and community awareness they need to be ambassadors for the area in marketing the communities and creating jobs for the people we serve," said Pilcher.
If you think your parish is ready to conduct a leadership program, call Pilcher at (318) 649-5802 or Dooley at (225) 578-2266. For information on these and the variety of other programs offered by the LSU AgCenter, visit www.lsuagcenter.com.
Cynthia Pilcher (318) 649-5802 or firstname.lastname@example.org
James Hendrix at (318) 766 3222 or email@example.com
Robert Hutchinson at (318) 435-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandy Dooley at (225) 578-2266 or email@example.com
John Chaney at (318) 473-6605 or firstname.lastname@example.org