The end of my series on participating in the Putnam County Leadership Academy.
Last Wednesday, our group had its final session. It was also our wrap-up as we were recognized as graduates of the newly revived Putnam County Leadership Academy.
This class, and the "party" afterward, were bittersweet. We were supposed to have a formal ceremony on Sunday, but couldn't find a suitable venue. It feels a bit like we've had no real closure -- even as we near the end of a year fraught with disappointments.
The academy has seemed like a blur since we started in mid-September. However, as a young journalist and a community member, it has been a profound experience for me.
This was meant to inspire each of us to be assets of progress. It is up to us to take what we've learned, utilize it and invest in our colleagues and community as a whole. We must take an active interest, and then be creative and bold in all our efforts. At the same time, little of this would mean that much without us having a sense of purpose.
In June 1966, then-junior U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy traveled to the University of Cape Town to give an address during the National Union of South African Students' Day of Affirmation. This assembly was in opposition to South Africa's apartheid policies, which drew direct parallels with the racial strife that was cleaving the nation.
The following is from Kennedy's yearning to South Africa's youth to be active within their communities and strive for the good of others in small, but determined, ways:
"Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events ... It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
We all have this quote in our PCLA binders. He touches on a singular focus with young entrepreneurs, leaders and stakeholders being able to fully participate in the Putnam County Leadership Academy: understanding what it means to be a positive influencer.
Those who will come after us will identify their strengths and weaknesses, but see the importance of showing grace toward others and their own. They should wrestle with the issue of diversity in the workplace, as well as how to constructively help others in a time of need. They will also find just how complex local government and industry is.
Participating in the academy has strengthened my appreciation for what we have to offer here in Greencastle and Putnam County. What we've learned and discussed has also reinforced the importance of being flexible and open, and believing that these more-or-less strangers with a common initiative can become friends and partners.
The ties binding these together is with people. Building connections truly drives it all.
I want to take this opportunity to thank those who made the academy possible. First to Lynn Ringis -- who heads the Montgomery County Leadership Academy -- for leading our sessions and being all-around awesome. She has said often that we've been a fun group, and this is because she let all of us be ourselves as people and as professionals.
I also want to thank Tami VanRensselaer and Kristin Clary of the Greencastle/Putnam County Economic Development Center for driving forth the academy. I am glad for their thinking of the Banner Graphic and inviting me to be part of this great initiative.
Finally, I want to thank participants Jake Widner, Jared Grable, Kaylee Query, Paul Jedele, Melissa Ensor, Neysa Meyer, Melissa Patton, Morgan Mullenix and Nathan Snell for their passion and the relationships we have cultivated in our time together.
It has been really fun to write this series about some of the topics we tackled, as well as highlighting the more human elements behind them all. However, I would say that I have only scratched the surface. There is more to it which is both fun and constructive.
I hope the academy will grow on strong footing, and that more people from different backgrounds and professions can have these tools to move this community forward.