A couple of the most important pieces of the Henderson Leadership Initiative are that participants learn much about themselves and then how to deal with and work with other people, says recent HLI graduate Christine Martin.
That’s supported by another fellow, Sean Leavelle, who said that the importance of hearing all voices in a room, often those who are naturally quieter than others, is key to finding the best way forward.
Martin, an accounting coordinator with Matthew 25 Aids Services, and Leavelle, a Henderson resident who works for Team Air Distributing in Evansville, were two of 24 people who graduated from the year-long HLI program Thursday night at the Preston Arts Center on the campus of Henderson Community College.
An interesting side note is that neither Martin nor Leavelle are originally from Henderson, or anywhere close. Leavelle was born and raised in California, and Martin is from Kenya. Both say they’ve found a good community in Henderson.
The 24 HLI graduates, now fellows, presented four different projects Thursday night to benefit Henderson. Each group, in addition to meetings and team-building exercises, has been working on their projects for the past year. The groups hope to get funding and other resources so that projects can be implemented.
HLI Executive Director Tiffany Sights, a retired educator, said her teaching itch was scratched throughout the year as she encouraged the participants and watched many “come out of their shells.”
“It’s really a great learning experience,” Sights said, adding that she believes the future of Henderson is in good hands.
With Thursday’s commencement, HLI has graduated more than 260 HLI fellows for community service.
“The brainstorming of community projects has been a hallmark of HLI since the program launched in 2007,” said Scott Davis, an HLI co-founder who chairs the organization’s board. “The initiatives are intended to benefit Henderson as well as provide practical experience in community leadership to class members.”
The following are synopses of the projects courtesy of HLI:
- Manufacturing Academy
This initiative partners with Henderson Economic Development to take a group of middle school students from both North and South Middle Schools on visits to various local manufacturers introducing them to a potential future occupation. By engaging students earlier in possible manufacturing careers, the hope is to get them started on that path and help them realize that there are wonderful job opportunities to keep them right here in their hometown.
Presenting this project were HLI class members Stephanie Owen, Ryan Reusch, Sandra Story, and Curtis Williams.
- Teacher Supply Store
This initiative will assist all teachers in Henderson County by giving them free access to classroom supplies. In partnership with the Henderson Kentucky Education Foundation, the “teacher locker” will be stocked with numerous supplies to help educators enhance instruction and will be located at the Central Academy. The store is set to open in July of this year and volunteers are welcome.
Presenters included Adam Blythe, Winston Chaney, Tyler Comer, Shawna Harrington, Katie Kirkwood, Marcos Nicolas Jr, and Maggie Whitledge.
- Connect Henderson
This initiative is sponsoring a civic/community engagement fair. The event, which is like speed-dating for volunteers, is called “Connect Henderson” and will be hosted on February 6, 2024. The event will take place at the Henderson County Public Library from 5 – 7:30 and is open to ANY community member who is new to Henderson or who simply wants to be more engaged in the Henderson community. There are currently over 15 organizations participating in the event as vendors.
Presenters included Kate Faupel Grealish, Terry Harmon, Kara Henshaw, Sean Leavelle, Christine Martin, Nick Nation, Dee Patel, and Samantha Reynolds.
- Welcome to Colonel Country Roundabout
This initiative has commissioned a sculptural art installation for the upcoming roundabout (nearest Henderson County High School) scheduled for construction in 2024 as part of the I-69 Ohio River Crossing Project in Henderson. Michael Wright, who is with Stone Art, Inc. is the artist designing the Colonel sculpture which will be finalized shortly after the roundabout is completed. This 15-foot colored, concrete sculpture will promote our Colonel spirit and will be a welcoming sight to all those traveling in and through our lovely city.
Presenters included Allie Brasher, Kelly Douglas, Amanda Hardy, Brittany Kitchens, and Glennese Patterson.