A special graduation took place Wednesday evening in the Daviess County Courthouse when the inaugural class of Leadership Daviess County received their certificates during a special ceremony that featured Indiana Sen. Eric Bassler as the keynote speaker.
Since September, the 19 community members involved have been learning about the Daviess County community while enriching their leadership skills through a series of activities. The class began with a retreat at Bradford Woods near Martinsville last fall, but there have been several additional outings around the county focusing on diversity, managing conflict, economic development, local government and more. Those enrolled were allowed to only miss one session of the 44 hours of interactive education and classroom work.
"We had several graduates that had perfect attendance," said Cindy Barber, a member of the local planning team that also includes Bassler, Jerry Harbstreit, Tom Schaffer, Eric Lane and Shanon O'Toole. "The community support for this project has been amazing as well."
Barber said the program was started with a $5,000 grant from the Daviess County Community Foundation and the monetary and in-kind support from the community raised the total contribution to about $13,700.
Julie Hart, Purdue Extension Southwest director, commended the group of graduates and the planning committee for their work.
"You are the first class and have set the bar high for classes that will follow," said Hart, as she addressed the nearly 80 community members and elected officials on hand to celebrate with the graduates.
While honing their leadership skills, many members of the class were thankful for the opportunity to meet others who all shared the same goal, but whose paths may not have necessarily crossed without Leadership Daviess County.
"Leadership Daviess County has given me the opportunity to meet such an extraordinary group of individuals, though as diverse as we are, there is a shared common purpose: to serve our community and to make a difference," said Luis Santiago.
Darla Norris said the vision and passion that Barber possesses for the program made the experience even more worthwhile.
"The program offered so much, but Cindy has been such an inspiration and deserves recognition too," said Norris. "She has such a welcoming attitude."
Margie Anderson said, "The Leadership Daviess County Program gave me the tools to be a better citizen of Daviess County and a better employee for my employer. My classmates, the panelists, guests, and visitors to our sessions made me want to be a better person."
"Living in a community your whole life and loving it as much as I love where we live, it is hard to believe being a part of Leadership Daviess County could make me feel more connected. That is exactly what this program did for me. It connected 19 people and gave us a venue to communicate, learn and value what we have in Daviess County. It touched upon our history, a few major industries, health care, education, cultures, local government, economic development, volunteerism, and of course, leadership," said Samantha Bobbitt.
"It is a bittersweet ending akin to the end of camp, because I have immensely enjoyed the time I spent with some truly amazing people. I look forward to working on our team projects and seeing how they evolve and being a part of helping to find the second class. If you are interested in Daviess County and leadership I highly recommend that you sign up for next year, but watch out because it is a program that will transform your opinion of our hometown and the surroundings, as well as people in it."
Christina Clark said, "It was a great experience and I highly recommend Leadership Daviess County to anyone who would like to know more about the history of the county and being a servant leader in the community, as well as on the job. I especially like the quote used in the program by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 'Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.'"
Other members of the inaugural Leadership Daviess County class included: Jennifer Gee, Erich Felkner, Michael Hosford, Todd Knepp, Marilyn McCullough, Jared Miller, Dawn Perkins, Jason Petty, Brandt Powden, Matt Primeau, Travis Schaffer, David Stowers, Alan Van Cleef and Nathan Vrolijk.