program grads ready to try skills in village
This weekend the Yellow Springs Leadership Institute will graduate the
first group of 10 participants in its new program aimed at training local
residents to become effective stewards of the community. The graduates,
who will participate in a ceremony on Saturday, May 17, at 10:45 a.m.,
at the Antioch Inn, expressed great satisfaction with the programs
Participants spent a total of 55 hours in seminars from September to April
developing skills that would help them turn ideas into group action for
nonprofit volunteer organizations.
I think its a very good program whether its that you
want to know how to be a leader or just be an effective meeting participant,
said class member Mary Alexander. I recommend it because it helps
you to have confidence, and it helps make you aware that we need volunteers
in the village.
Professional facilitators led the group through discussions and interactive
projects broken down into six different teaching modules. Each one focused
on a different topic, such as effective communication with a diverse group.
Other seminars addressed familiarization with local civic organizations,
conflict management, managing volunteer and community groups, and project
Alexander, who was appointed to Village Council last month and volunteers
for numerous organizations in the area, said its too early yet to
tell whether the information she shared with the groups will be applied
toward more effective leadership. The members of at least one of her groups
have already implemented a basic tenet of local facilitator Fred Bartensteins
communication lessons on time management by making their long meetings
We decided up front what to do and how to accomplish it by having
one person speak at a time with no interruptions and having timed speaking,
Alexander said. Our meetings used to last three to four hours and
that was helpful in cutting our meeting down so the ladies would be more
willing to come.
Alexander said that she joined the institute because the organizations
she belonged to werent operating in an effective way or in a defined
direction. She wanted to learn how to drive the group toward a goal, but
to do it without seeming overbearing. In the conflict management session
she learned to recognize the body language of disagreement in herself
and others and try to personally avoid it, or how to cool other
Ive tried to implement some of these lessons, and I think
theyve been pretty effective, she said.
Participant Bill Bebko said that he learned interpersonal skills that
enabled him to understand personality conflicts and to deal with them.
The seminars gave him insight into his own mode of operation and that
of his colleagues, which led to better communication. Understanding others
perspectives made it easier to maintain a positive momentum as a member
of, for instance, the Village Environmental Commission.
He also said he benefited from the project planning segments and the seminars
on fiscal operations, as could anyone dealing with a local organization.
The participants themselves created a high level of camaraderie in their
discussions, said Bebko, who believes they benefited from their different
One of the aspects that make this program unique is its inclusiveness
toward both established leaders and anyone who wants to become a better
steward in the community, said Sally Mier, a member of both the curriculum
committee and the institutes Board of Trustees.
After going through this first year, Bebko agreed that the classes are
designed to benefit both leaders and community volunteers.
Mier also praised the quality of the cohort model of learning, where the
participants are encouraged to become not students but experimental practitioners
of the skills they are trying to learn.
Final program evaluations from the students summarized the programs
positive features and also suggested things that could be improved or
expanded, she said. Participants in general may not have understood how
to go about implementing the cohort model, Mier said, and they sometimes
fell back into the role of students rather than active participants.
Participants said they would prefer that the curriculum provide a greater
focus on time management and fundraising, especially at a time when government
and businesses are making many cutbacks, said Mier. And though the group
of 10 varied by age and experience, there were only two male participants,
and not as much racial diversity as organizers would like, she said.
But on the whole, participants remained pleased and impressed with the
quality of the program. Ven Adkins felt his time was well spent.
I cant imagine anywhere else where you could get such consolidated
information on community leadership and community organizational processes,
he said. Were fortunate to have a group of people willing
enough and caring enough to put a program like this together for the community.
The institute will gather up the good and the bad from this year and use
it to inform next years program. Though the budget will not be approved
until the Board of Trustees meets in June, the organization is projecting
an estimated $10,000 to $12,000 for a similarly structured session, said
Jim Albright, chairman of the board.
This past year the institute relied heavily on community donations, such
as major funding from The Antioch Company Foundation, and on the ability
of facilitators to coordinate seminars for little or no remuneration.
Last years program ran on a $20,000 budget, with participant fees
at a low of $50 for the entire session.
But future needs could rise if the Institute hires a full-time or part-time
coordinator in the next few years, Albright said. Participant fees will
likely increase this year to $100 to $150, and the Institute might include
corporate employees whose fee will be higher if paid by the company they
represent, he said.
The board is still committed to making sure that no one will be
denied for financial reasons, Albright said.
Saturdays graduation will include a luncheon and comments from the
Antioch Company President Lee Morgan, who will discuss Confessions
of a Suspected Leader.
The Leadership institutes next board meeting is open to the community
and will be held on June 5, 7 p.m., in the Yellow Springs Library meeting
Participants from the programs first year are enthusiastic about
the Institutes success.
I absolutely would recommend it to anyone at all interested in village
participation, Bebko said. Theyll be better people and
the village will be better for it.