Nicole Suderman, a 2007 graduate and LMC board president, said that without the program, she wouldn?t have felt comfortable serving in the leadership roles she has now.
For many former graduates, the program was considered an eye-opening experience.
Tina Groening of Marion, a liaison with the group, said before joining LMC she didn?t think she had much to offer her community.
?I thought that even if I had something to offer, I wasn’t equipped to deal with situations that involved large groups or organizations,? she said. ?After all, I had never led anything before. I was never on the student council, a 4-H junior leader, head of any committee or even head cheerleader.?
Groening said she believes the group not only will help the county, but also will help participants become more productive with their families, jobs and organizations.
?After signing up for Leadership Marion County,? Groening said, ?I soon discovered that we are all able to lead within the groups that we are involved in by helping the group work better together.?
Angela Lange, a 2008 graduate, was born and raised in Marion County. She said each class she took offered her a more in-depth understanding of the county and its people.
Jackie Rice of Marion, who also serves as a liaison for LMC, was a member of the 2005 graduating class.
?The program gave me a network of people throughout the county that have helped me feel more connected in many different interest areas,? Rice said.
She said the classes have improved her skills when working with groups of people, and she has a better understanding of group dynamics.
In addition to personal growth, Rice said the classes also helped her interact with other people in group settings.
?I think I am more sensitive to the way other people see things and how they come to their decisions about a given issue,? she said.
The first LMC group was formed in 1989 with participants traveling to neighboring towns to learn more about them.
In recent years, though, the idea took hold for promoting servant leadership within a more structured environment.
Servant leadership is a philosophy that supports people who choose to serve others first, then lead as a way of expanding service to individuals and institutions.
?It is your responsibility as a servant leader,? Groening said, ?to listen generously, suspend judgment, care about people, focus on each person and recognize that all people have value and can contribute to the group.?
Groening also said a servant leader is responsible for paying attention, facilitating from the chair, asking questions to promote understanding, thinking creatively and believing in the group process.
2010 class schedule
Classes will begin Feb. 4 at Morning Star Ranch in Florence with servant leadership and learning styles as the topics.
On Feb. 18, participants will travel to Cousins Corner B&B in Ramona for story-telling. This class will help members understand the stories that others tell as a way to enhance cooperation.
Tampa Senior Center is the site of the March 4 class, which focuses on vision and how individuals understand one another in an effort to work together toward a common goal.
On March 18, class members will visit The Hub in Peabody with the theme, ?Steps to a Performing Community.?
A city tour of Marion is scheduled April 1 to assist individuals with becoming more familiar with the county.
?Collaboration/Consensus? is the subject April 15 at the Marion County Courthouse in Marion. The focus will be on leading a group to make team decisions that benefit the whole.
A trip to Topeka is planned for May 6 to see how the state?s legislature works, with an emphasis on empowering others.
?Personal mission? is scheduled May 20 at Goessel Community Center.
On June 3, the group will travel to Lincolnville?s community center to focus on tools that participants need in facilitation.
June 17 is a class project, and graduation will be June 27 at the Burns Community Building.
The leadership board decided to keep tuition at $175 in order to encourage as many people as possible to participate.
The only other requirement is that a participant be a Marion County resident or an employee of a Marion County business.
The fee may be paid by an employer, the individual or a sponsoring organization.
Graduates say the advantages of the program far outweigh the expense. Ricky Roberts, Marion County extension agent, graduated from the program in 2006. He said the class offered him the opportunity to pay more attention to what other communities have to offer.
?I got to know people a lot more through interaction (provided by the class),? he said.
For more information, call Suderman at 947-5702.
Leadership Marion County applications are available at Marion City Hall, 208 E. Santa Fe, or at the Hillsboro Free Press, 116 S. Main.
LMC is sponsored by the Marion County Board of Commissioners, Marion County Economic Development Council and Leadership Marion County.