gmhTODAY 11 gmhToday Nov Dec 2016 - Page 77

Creating an Oasis, Building Community Leaders W ould you choose to get together with nineteen strangers for nine months to explore community service and your potential as a leader? This was exactly the journey that Leadership Morgan Hill’s Class of 2016 began in January and completed on September 19 th , when graduates of the leadership program walked across the stage at Guglielmo Winery to the cheers and applause of their friends and loved ones. As a Class of 2016 alumna, I’d like to share highlights of our journey. Leadership Morgan Hill is a training and developmental program created to inspire interested persons to become future leaders in community service. The concept of this non-profit pro- gram originated with the Chamber of Commerce. Today there are similar leader- ship programs in more than 50 California communities, including Morgan Hill and Gilroy. Leadership Morgan Hill began in 1995 and now boasts more three hundred alumni. Alumni members guided our class through a curriculum covering all aspects of community service and leader- ship related to local and state government, economics, education, public safety and other areas. We began with an overnight retreat with group exercises to help us learn about each other, program goals, and a little bit about our preferred leader- ship styles. Our class was very diverse, including a retired fireman, a police officer, a bookstore owner, city work- ers, healthcare professionals, educators, bankers, realtors, and even a few world travelers. There was time to socialize, and bonds began to form. Each month, we met for an evening session with a guest speaker, and attended a day-long session to meet community leaders from all walks of life for an in-depth look at various aspects of community service. My personal favorite was the overnight trip to Sacramento for State Government Day, which included face-to-face meetings with some of our elected officials and other government staffers whose work impacts our com- by Kathy Sullivan munity. In one of our leadership training exercises, we had a chance to participate in debates. Key to achieving the program’s goal to develop leadership skills is the class project. Our class was asked to come up with a community service project that we could complete within our nine-month training program. This gave us first-hand experience in group dynamics and leadership skills. We decided to create a “Community Oasis” — a serene garden environment to inspire youth and connect a neighborhood. For our location, we chose Central High School on Tilton Avenue in Morgan Hill. The former elementary school site had been updated in 2013 to serve as a continuation high school and community center. However, little attention had been paid to the surrounding grounds, which were in need of TLC. Our class had just nine months to come up with a concept, get board approval, create a design plan, raise funds to finance the project, manage the project and budget, and publicize it. We felt the urgency to get started “Kathy’s background in healthcare made her the ideal candidate to oversee AAUW’s new Lauren Jenkins Healthcare Scholarship, which will be awarded to a qualified female student pursuing a healthcare career. Kathy is a strong positive role model, something we value highly, and she is a joy to work with.”  “I love Kathy’s wholehearted involvement in Morgan Hill community life. She has taken on key responsibilities at the Morgan Hill Downtown Association and was very welcoming when I joined the board. Kathy brings to meetings an open, roundtable style of communication that encourages people to share their ideas.” Brittney Sherman, President, Morgan Hill Downtown Association Mary Cox, Co-President, AAUW Morgan Hill GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016 77