Unless you’ve been in a coma, you know that our country has been bitterly divided in attitudes, in geography and in beliefs over the past two years. Being inclusive has always been a hallmark of Leadership La Plata, and the organization’s goal of building understanding has never been more important.
I’m a month behind on this – it got lost in my overflowing Neighbors inbox – but it is important enough to write about it. My apologies to Tim Kroes, who organized the class with Kelly Von Stroh and was prompt in getting me the information.
Tara Kiene, president and CEO of Community Connections and also an LLP grad, served as moderator for the day.
The class began with a session led by former LLP Steering Chairwoman Karen Thompson, helping class members stretch diversity in personal social styles. The group explored understanding their own leadership styles and personality traits to build more effective communications with people who have different styles and traits.
My life is full of synchronicities, and I was just writing about how the Ignacio School District has invested in staff and teachers understanding the communication styles of each other and their students because it’s a critical component of achieving goals.
Embracing diversity in the makeup of the day’s facilitators, the group called on Bill Bolden, retired assistant vice president for Student Affairs at Fort Lewis College; Lauren Patterson, a program planner and evaluation consultant who has been involved with the Embracing Diversity Initiative and Diversity Dialogue; and Nancy Stoffer, coordinator of diversity programming and Common Ground at FLC. Mariel Balbuena, deputy director of the La Plata Family Centers Coalition, and Bruce LeClaire, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, joined them for a panel discussion.
For the rest of the day, Bolden, Patterson and Stoffer led the group through a powerful set of activities and discussions digging into a broad range of issues related to diversity in our community and the personal feelings and experiences of class members and panelists. They looked at all kinds of diversities – race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities and religious and political beliefs.
There are a lot of hot buttons in that list. I remember a woman once said to me, “I’m surprised they let you be a reporter,” because I walk on crutches. I’m sure she didn’t understand what she was saying, but a bias on disability is something many of us have.
The day ended with a report on the class members’ homework. They had been assigned to find a local experience in which they were an “outsider” or out of their comfort zones. From immersing themselves in panhandling and homelessness to attending political meetings of the opposite party, class members stretched and learned.
If this is sounding like the kind of training you’d like to expand and stretch your own understanding, keep your eyes peeled for the Diversity Dialogue, which is generally held in March. I attended last year, and it was eye-opening. I’m thinking about it eight months later, if that tells you something.
Or you can apply for next year’s Leadership La Plata class. Applications are usually due by the beginning of June.
HHHI generally try to write about each Leadership La Plata class when it’s chosen, but somehow I missed it this summer.
This year’s class members are Aaron Brandes, Seasons Rotisserie & Grill; Allison Aichele, La Plata County treasurer; Ann Marie Meighan, executive director of the Adaptive Sports Association; David McHenry, a community volunteer; Eric Nyquist, news director at Four Corners Broadcasting; Esther Belin, intake/aftercare coordinator for Peaceful Spirit, a program of the Southern Ute Community Action Programs; James Brost, Intelligent Investment Management; Jennifer Hilburn, Durango Medical Hypnosis; John Ballew, Architectural Consulting; Katherine Burgess, CTC Voyages; Louetta Phelps, Take Shape for Life/Juice Plus; Mary Shepherd, Southwest Colorado Small Business Development Center; Melissa Zureich, First National Bank of Durango; Michelle Sainio, FredrickZink and Associates (and my guru on understanding nonprofits’ tax Form 990); Mitch Dye, Imagenet Consulting; Nadine Ontiveros, La Plata Electric Association; and Suzanne Connors, Fort Lewis College.
A group of committed alumni, including Steve Barkley, Ernie Lau, Christi Zeller, Steve List and Elizabeth Bussian, took on the Herculean task of reviewing and interviewing applicants and making some tough choices to create a multifaceted group.
LLP, now in its 28th year, has more than 400 alumni who are working, volunteering and leading at organizations throughout the county. During a retreat and eight themed classes, the organization teaches leadership skills and presents a look at different segments in our community. Classmates may come in knowing a lot about business or education, but they will walk out with information about health and human sources, criminal justice and other fields that make a community.
I always add a disclaimer – or maybe it’s a claimer – that I was a member of the LLP class of 1991-1992. That may have been in the Dark Ages or so last-century, but it was one of the most rewarding learning experiences of my life.
HHHCheck back at durangoherald.com for more Neighbors stories and photos. Click on the word “Neighbors” to make sure you haven’t missed any stories. Neighbors runs in the Sunday print edition of The Durango Herald.Here’s how to reach me: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items. Follow me on Twitter @Ann_Neighbors.I am happy to consider photos for Neighbors, but they must be high-quality, high-resolution photos (at least 1 MB of memory) and include no more than three to five people. I need to know who’s who, left to right, and who to credit with the photo. Candid photos are better than posed, and photos should be submitted as JPG or TIF attachments.