Karen Overstreet, Coolman, Denise, Dooley, Sanford B. | 12/15/2005 3:55:22 AM
VIVIAN – Residents in this Caddo Parish town are looking to the LSU AgCenter to help them make their town a better place to live, work and play.
Vivian is a town of about 4,000 residents, and 30 of them recently graduated from an LSU AgCenter Community Leadership and Economic Development class, known as CLED, for short. The CLED classes are designed to teach community volunteers of all ages, races and socio-economic backgrounds about ways they can work to improve their communities.
Jeromy Rhoads is a teen-ager who graduated from the 10-week class and says he wanted to learn more about becoming a "leader" in his community.
"I heard about the class and thought it would be interesting," said Rhoads, a 14-year-old 8th grader. "It has been interesting, as well as informative. I’ve learned about what it takes to be a good leader. I’ve learned about how important community involvement is to the growth of a community and what it takes to be a leader to help lead others to become involved in a community’s growth."
The LSU AgCenter has taught CLED classes all over Louisiana for the past 11 years. In addition to this class in Caddo Parish, CLED has been taught in various towns or parishwide in Acadia, Beauregard, Claiborne, Concordia, DeSoto, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Grant, Iberia, Jackson, Jefferson Davis, Livingston, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Pointe Coupee, Sabine, St. Mary, Vernon and Washington parishes.
The Vivian CLED class was divided into three committees that focused on education, neighborhood revitalization and downtown development.
"These committees are representative of issues that appear on the current strategic plan for Vivian," said Dr. Karen Overstreet of the LSU AgCenter, who is one of the coordinators of the CLED program and teaches it to residents all over Louisiana. "The mayor hopes to incorporate the work done in class with existing committees by having some of the same people involved."
According to Overstreet, the goal of the education committee in Vivian was to improve the integration of the community and schools through motivation and positive representation.
The neighborhood revitalization committee was to attract new families to the area and gain more participation from established families, she said, adding that group plans to start quarterly "Cleanup Days" to pick up trash and garbage around town.
The downtown development committee set out to create a viable, self-sufficient downtown area that meets the retail and entertainment needs of the local community.
Vivian Mayor Steve Taylor, who also is a medical doctor in town, said he has seen "very positive" reactions from the Vivian residents who have taken the class sponsored by the Ward II Industrial Development Board, the Louisiana Department of Economic Development and the Southwestern Power Electric Co.
"Vivian hasn’t grown much in the past 30 years," Taylor said. "A big part of a town’s growth is the attitudes of the people living in it. This class has been beneficial in helping people learn how to take ownership in their community and work to make it better."
Dr. Sandy Dooley, another LSU AgCenter coordinator of the program, said the class is proving valuable to communities all over the state.
"This program is one that every member of a community can participate in to bring about economic development," Dooley said. "Not only does it provide an opportunity for interested citizens and community leaders to come together to study and solve problems within their own communities, but it also stresses the need for long-term commitment by local leadership to improve the area’s economic potential."
The LSU AgCenter’s CLED program is gaining popularity and showing positive results as it grows. For example, the CLED program was recently recognized by the International Economic Development Council for its outstanding achievements, and CLED graduates across the state have proven records as community leaders.
For more information on this and other issues dealing with economic development, agriculture, health, finances and more, go to www.lsuagcenter.com.
Karen Overstreet at (225) 578-6701 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandy Dooley at (225) 578-2266 or email@example.com Writer:
A. Denise Coolman at (318) 547-0921 or firstname.lastname@example.org