Karen Overstreet, Dooley, Sanford B., Morgan, Johnny W. | 5/21/2005 2:33:43 AM
A group made up of nearly equal numbers of younger and older residents of East Feliciana Parish recently completed the second Community Leadership and Economic Development class conducted by LSU AgCenter faculty members in that area.
The program, known as CLED, for short, is designed to provide training for community volunteers to help them make their communities better places to live. It involves 10 weeks of classes provided by LSU AgCenter faculty members and has been conducted in a variety of areas across Louisiana over the past few years.
"The class offers an opportunity for everyday people to get involved in making things happen in their communities," said Dr. Karen Overstreet, an LSU AgCenter specialist and one of the program coordinators.
Overstreet said the CLED classes have been taught around the state over the past 10-11 years, and some areas, like East Feliciana, have moved into a second round of the educational program.
As part of the CLED training, participants in the program are asked to create work groups and then decide what current problem they want to work on after they finish the 10 weeks of classes.
"In the past we’ve had some groups tackle some problems that seemed to be too hard to manage, but they’ve surprised us," Overstreet said, adding, "In Bogalusa, the group decided that they needed a farmers’ market, and they now have a new building and the market is up and running."
In other examples, Overstreet said a CLED group in Pointe Coupee decided to work on a school mentoring program, and in Zachary the project was to provide a community theater.
She said the first East Feliciana Parish CLED class was held back in 1996, and some of its graduates were invited back for the completion of this latest program when it was celebrated earlier this month (May 5) at Clinton High School
One of the members of the latest class also was a graduate of the first CLED training in the parish. Mrs. Lee Thomas said the first time she went through the program, her group chose leadership as its focus area and they decided to take the lead in working with families affected by welfare reform.
"At the time, welfare reform was happening, and we chose to look for ways to help more than 500 families that would be affected," Thomas said.
She said that first East Feliciana group networked with each other, worked to facilitate job training and helped people move into jobs or volunteer positions.
"When jobs came open, these people had already been trained – and at no cost to the government," she said.
Dr. Sandy Dooley, another program coordinator and LSU AgCenter specialist, said the recent East Feliciana class was unique because there were 11 high school students enrolled, which is more than any class in the past.
Moses Young, a senior at Jackson High School, said his guidance counselor recommended he participate in the program.
"It’s been a great experience," Young said. "My group has been working on a way to build a recreation center to keep kids out of trouble."
Young, like others who have participated in the program, said he realized the group’s work will just be getting started when they complete their 10 weeks of training.
"We will be sending out a survey to people in the community, and we will be trying to get grants to help with construction," he said of their near-term goals.
Danny Crump, campus dean for the Louisiana Technical College-Folks Campus and a graduate of the current class, said his group is working to develop a vision statement for education in East Feliciana Parish.
"We want to raise awareness and support of the school board," Crump said, adding, "We hope to use community meetings to gain majority support for the vision."
Another member of the class is working with a group to build more affordable housing in the area. George Turner, president of Ethel Rural Community Housing and Economic Development, said his work group is in the process of writing grants to acquire property and material for such an effort.
"This class has been a good experience for the networking, and we share ideas that are helpful to the development of our visions," Turner said.
In addition to the two classes in East Feliciana, over the past 10-11 years, CLED training has been conducted in Acadia/Jefferson Davis/Evangeline parishes, Beauregard Parish, Bogalusa, Claiborne Parish, Concordia Parish, DeSoto Parish, Franklinton, Grant Parish, Iberia Parish, Jackson Parish, Livingston Parish, Natchitoches, Pointe Coupee Parish, Sabine Parish, St. Mary Parish, Vernon Parish, West Monroe and Zachary.
This 10-week class in East Feliciana was offered by the LSU AgCenter with support from local businesses and organizations who donated meals, meeting locations and financial support. Additional sponsors included DEMCO and Entergy, utility companies which provide service to the region.
Sandy Dooley at (225) 578-2266 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Karen Overstreet at (225) 578-6701or email@example.com
Johnny Morgan at (504) 838-1170 or firstname.lastname@example.org