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June 2009 Archives

June 2, 2009

Leadership Noxubee: Committed to Making a Difference

I was asked to provide facilitation and training to Leadership Noxubee's most recent session. We had a healthy three-hour discussion on the importance of building communities by seeking to uncover local assets and leveraging external resources by strengthening partnerships to get things done. Class members have several ideas for community betterment, and I look forward to seeing this group take charge and make a positive impact in their community.

We met in an Internet cafe called Macon Connections. This is a tremendous asset to the community, as many folks were observed driving by the store with laptops in hand undoubtedly checking e-mail and making a quick Web surf. Unfortunately, the cafe is only open a couple of days a week right now. Hopefully, an organization or individual will take the lead to keep this resource sustainable for local students and other residents.

I enjoyed the opportunity to visit with this group. Providing leadership opportunities for local residents is extremely important. I encourage communities without a program similiar to Leadership Noxubee to look at communities with active and successful ones and develop programs that fit your communities. And Mississippi State will be happy to help you accomplish this.

Mathiston First Impressions Unveiled

I had an enjoyable visit with folks in Mathiston last week. Results of the First Impressions visit made last fall were presented to a group of people ready to learn how to better equip their town on the economic importance of leaving a better lasting impression on visitors and instilling a sense of pride for residents.

Mathiston has a unique asset in the Natchez Trace Parkway. Travelers are only about five minutes from the heart of town once they exit the Trace. This scenic byway attracts visitors from all over the country and the world; therefore, it's important to create a unique sense of place that will entice visitors to stop.

A real challege for the town is the campus of the former Wood College. Unfortunately, the buildings are falling into a state of disrepair fairly rapidly. As it stands right now, the challenges seem to be many in figuring out what can be done with this property. Although the challenges are significant, the campus also presents a real opportunity for the community. Hopefully, a positive outcome will result so all stakeholders will reap the benefits.

June 22, 2009

Bridging the Education-Community Gap in Natchez

Hats off to the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce's Education Committee for inviting us to assist with their planning efforts. Many times communities fail to understand how to be truly involved and supportive of local schools. At the same time, schools often fail to realize how to better integrate themselves with the community.

Schools and communities must work hand in glove together to solve complex issues related to community and economic development. An action plan for improvement must include and build interdependencies among all sectors--public and nonpublic schools from pre-kindergarten through college along with governmental and business leadership. Having a "silo" mentality simply will not work in the year 2009.

One of the biggest challenges many communties face in Mississippi is the negative perception of their schools. While dropout rates and test scores in many of our schools are less than desirable, local folks must actively pursue innovative ideas to cause positive changes to happen. When these positive changes begin to take place, perceptions begin to change for the better. It can't happen overnight, but aggressive grassroots leadership at the local level can make a difference.

Community Interest is High at Weir's Encore Presentation

Jeremy and I were delighted to see 65 townsfolk attend Thursday's encore First Impressions presentation--that's right, I said 65 people! Do you realize that's 12% of the town's population?

Hats off to the Mayor and others who rallied the troops and got folks to the meeting. Great discussion was had by all, and we left feeling like residents were ready to take ownership and enhance their town's appearance. In fact, one volunteer has already made the frames for repairing the town sidewalks! She asked for volunteers to roll up their sleeves and pitch in and help on an upcoming Saturday.

This is what it takes--buy in and sweat equity from the local people. Communities that sit around and wait for someone to come in from Washington or Jackson (or anywhere else) with all the answers will still be waiting after other communties have rolled up their sleeves and gotten busy. Sure. It's important to leverage resources from external groups, but these groups can't (and shouldn't) do all the work. Local communities must solve local challenges by leveraging resources and asking for assistance along the way.

The spark is there in Weir to make significant improvements over the next few months and years. Moving from vision to action isn't always easy. Continuous encouragement and coaching by those of us who work in community development is important to keep them focused so they will see positive outcomes with short-term success.

If a small, rural community like Weir can turn out 65 residents, others can too. WEIR there's a will, there's a way!

June 26, 2009

New Partnership in the Works

We were delighted to have the opportunity to meet with staff from the Mississippi Center for Education Innovation this week. One of the Center's main program components is community engagement, so we are excited to collaborate as we begin to look at several communities in the Delta and southwestern part of the state in which to provide community development assistance.

Community engagement is a critical piece in the community development puzzle. Too many times, local residents are not involved in being a part of the solution to local challenges. Sometimes they simply aren't asked, and other times they may not know how to become engaged.

Education and community/economic development are joined at the hip. As former Governor William Winter stated, "The road to success runs by the schoolhouse." Well said.

About June 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Dawg Tracks in June 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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