Organizations: Leadership Georgia

Going Global: Leadership Georgia made its first international excursion this summer, taking almost every member of the class of 2009 to Costa Rica. It wasn’t for fun in the sun, either, says the organization’s president, Horace Johnson, Jr.

“Costa Rica presented a unique opportunity, given its reasonably close proximity and its existing ties to the state – the University of Georgia has a satellite campus there and there are numerous private institutions there that have Georgia ties as well. One of our legendary founders, Pat Patilllo, has been integrally involved in the Guanacaste region there. Costa Rica, I’m told, looks like Georgia looked like 50-60 years ago.”

Mission Oriented: In short, visiting this emerging country gave participants the opportunity to see how locals there are making the most of limited resources and maybe take home some ideas they could implement in their own community.

That, Johnson says, lies at the heart of Leadership Georgia’s mission. Established in 1971 by a group of visionaries seeking to create a leadership development program for up-and-coming Georgians, the organization, Johnson says, “aims to push those emerging leaders to work hard at building good, sustainable communities all over the state. We try to push them to be great thinkers and doers in their own respective communities, and collectively we hope to build a better Georgia.”

Program Particulars: Since the first class convened in 1972, some 3,000 Georgians between the ages of 25-45 have taken part in the program. Leadership Georgia’s 18-member board of trustees whittles each year’s class of 60 down from some 300-400 nominees. The program is unique nationally, Johnson says, because finalists’ spouses or significant others also are invited to participate for no extra charge (tuition is $3,000).

Local Lessons: A typical class meets about five times a year, Johnson says, usually in various locations state-wide. “We try to highlight places that have something going on,” he says. “The intent is to show you that you may not think there is much in your town, but there is.”

This year’s program, “Exceed Expectations,” which Johnson and his wife Michelle, members of the class of 2002, developed, kicked off in Brasstown Valley, then convened in Waycross, Costa Rica and Carrollton. Graduation will be held this month in Gainesville.

Every five to seven years, Johnson adds, a “governmental immersion” program may be held in Washington, DC. – Shannon Wilder

Categories: Organizations