Twenty-two local leaders take their fine-tuned skills into the community after graduating in August from the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce’s 32nd annual Leadership Lafayette Program.
The eight-month program is centered on enhancing teamwork, generating and executing new ideas and serving the local community.
“I’m extremely honored each year to be a part of such a prestigious group of leaders in the Lafayette-Oxford-University community,” said Quentin Brewer, Leadership Lafayette Program chair. “I know this class will do like so many of the others and go on to do great things in this community.”
The 2022 class includes Kelly Bell, The Isom Place; Peter Binder, Olin – Winchester; Moneak Bobo, North Mississippi Regional Center; Rashanda Booker, University of Mississippi; Cameron Brown, Old Navy; Jon Brown, C Spire; James Dowd, University of Mississippi and Re/Max Legacy Realty; Shane Fortner, Oxford Police Department; Halon Gossett, Market Realty; Duncan Gray, Oxford School District; Elise Grenley, FNB Oxford; Kathryn Hathorne; Brittney Marks, University of Mississippi; Jake Mitchel, University of Mississippi; Traci Moore, Baptist Memorial Hospital; Betsy Nelson, Shared Air Solutions Consultants; Gabby Rush, Americorps Vista-Doors of Hope Transition Ministries; Laurie Steele, city of Oxford; Castel Sweet, University of Mississippi; Nadia Thornton, Visit Oxford; Shanika Ward, North Mississippi Regional Center; and Taylor Webb, Tollison & Webb, P.A.
The 2022 graduating class planned diverse community projects by dividing into four teams that focused on the Equitable Entrepreneurship Workshop and Dinner, Oxford Diaper Bank, Sensory Cinemas Series, and the 50th anniversary of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.
The Entrepreneurship Dinner team focused on giving minorities the opportunity to start their own businesses. The dinner and workshops leading up to the dinner educated participants on how to begin a business, the finances and resources needed to begin a business, marketing, and management, hiring and human resources.
The Oxford Diaper Bank group strived to establish an Oxford Diaper Bank that would provide diapers and other essential items for people in need in the LOU community. At the onset of the project, the group had set a lofty goal of raising $4,000, which would purchase roughly 1,000 pallets of diapers from the Bare Needs Diaper Bank in Memphis.
At the conclusion of fundraising, the group surpassed that goal and raised a total of $6,854. While some of the funds were given directly to the North MS Exchange Family Center in the form of cash, check, or Venmo donations, the group presented a check to the organization in the amount of roughly $5,200, to sustain the program for at least five years without needing additional funding or donations. North MS Exchange Family Center will take on the management of the program and the team will stay involved.
The Sensory Cinemas Series team was dedicated to enhancing the inclusivity of film viewing in our local Malco Cinema Theatres. They achieved this mission through the following objectives: 1) Providing a high-quality theater experience by extending opportunities to our community at large who may otherwise be impacted by a traditional theatre viewing experience. 2) Educating the community about sensory-friendly viewings and the importance of diversity and inclusion.
The YAC group came together to honor the 50th anniversary of Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and created a mission to sustain it for 50 more years. They helped coordinate the final event of Hoka Days, scheduled for Friday, Sept. 26. Hoka Days was a month-long celebration of the arts and culture in Oxford and Lafayette County celebrating the spirit of Ron Shapiro. This year’s final event featured a second line and concert honoring Ron, which was held on the day before his birthday.
This year’s Leadership Lafayette class presented the 2022 Leadership Award to Shanika Ward. Ward has poured her heart into the Sensory Cinemas Project with passion and empathy for creating a viewing atmosphere that spotlights the importance of diversity and inclusion.
“One of my biggest goals was to ensure that people with disabilities have access to services and supports that promote self-determination, independence, and inclusion within our community. This is especially important for recreational opportunities and outings within our area,” said Shanika Ward. “I am so very thankful and honored to be the recipient of this year’s distinguished Leadership Award. The biggest reward is knowing that I had the opportunity to work and connect with such great people and leaders within our beautiful community to build a better future for all.”
Pam Swain, Leadership Lafayette program director and senior vice president of the Chamber, said this year’s class had unprecedented chemistry among the small groups.
“They each had a great amount of passion for their community and worked hard for the organizations they got involved with through their projects,” Swain said. “I salute this unique group of leaders for the lasting impact they have left on this community through their determination and goals with their community projects.”
The Chamber was grateful to have a graduation sponsorship in support of the class from Paragon Bank. Paragon prides itself on two things: easy-to-use banking solutions and amazing service from people you know. Paragon customers enjoy technology and services comparable to those megabanks and the care and respect you only get from friends. In the tradition of neighbors helping neighbors, when you bank with Paragon you see them invest in the communities they serve, which is evident with their support of Leadership Lafayette.
The Leadership Lafayette is organized by a Steering Committee made of up hand-selected program alumni. The dedicated steering committee handles all the details of the program, including all session speakers and locations, food details, and the intense class selection process.
The 2022 committee includes: Quentin Brewer, Program Chair, Paragon Bank (Class of 2015); Rachel Alcorn, Communicare (Class of 2019); Wayne Andrews, Yoknapatawpha (Class of 2021); Prema Balachandran, University of Mississippi (Class of 2021); Kurt Brummet, United Way of Oxford (Class of 2019); Edy Dingus, Magnolia Montessori School (Class of 2019); Caitlin Hopper, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council (Class of 2016); Jeff McCutchen, Oxford Police Department (Class of 2018); Kristi Peeples, Renasant Bank (Class of 2010); Susan Peterson, GoodTime (Class of 2007);Jeremy Roberts, University of Mississippi (Class of 2019); Meredith Rawl, Family Crisis Services (Class of 2015); Peter Ross, Baptist Memorial Hospital (Class of 2010); Sha’ Simpson, NMRC (Class of 2017); Jessica Windham, Square Real Estate (Class of 2007).
The 2022 class also chose four representatives to join other alumni on the steering committee. Those selected to join the team were Peter Binder, James Dowd, Brittney Marks and Shanika Ward.
The Chamber of Commerce will begin accepting applications for the 2023 Leadership Lafayette class in October 2022.