Program shapes eagerness into wise, able leadership Participants praise sessions on fulfilling needs of community

November 25, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Five years after it started, Leadership Anne Arundel is growing into a behind-the-scenes force in the county, its graduates taking public office and their class projects creating institutions.

The Annapolis training program, one of 12 in the state, offers county officials, activists and business people an in-depth view of local programs. Its alumni directory reads like a local Who's Who, listing bank officers next to community activists.

Two graduates of the nonprofit program, Pamela G. Beidle and Barbara Samorajczyk, won seats on the County Council in November.

Leadership Anne Arundel has produced the county's Teen Court for juvenile offenders; a foundation to help county schools with small grants; and a business mentoring program for Glen Burnie High School students.

"It helps to make things happen," graduate Penny Hopkins said of the program.

In 1996 and 1997, Hopkins, part-owner of Admiral Cleaners, and a group of her program classmates set up the county's Teen Court, pulling together county police officers, grant writers and other resources to find the expertise and the funding.

That was in addition to the monthly workshops they attended on topics such as economic development and assignments such as spending a shift riding with a police officer or a night in a homeless shelter.

The current class of 42 spent its session last month on education, riding to schools in a yellow bus to hear from teachers and administrators.

"We hope the folks that go through our program will have a lifelong commitment to making our communities stronger," said Nancy Wilson, executive director of Leadership.

Participants say the program has helped them connect quickly with the people in the county who make things happen.

The Rev. Paul Murray, director of marketing and community relations for Hospice of the Chesapeake, said he is seeing results after three months as a student in the program.

A county resident since June, Murray is a candidate for a board position with Northern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, where he has formed an outreach committee. When he walked into the NAACP Freedom Fund Awards banquet with his wife recently, he knew people such as school Superintendent Carol S. Parham and Martha A. Smith, president of Anne Arundel Community College.

He had met them in a Leadership workshop.

"Less than six months in a community and I feel like I've been here for several years because of all the people I know," Murray said. "If you want to make a contribution to your community and don't know where to go, go to Leadership Anne Arundel and you'll definitely find something that you're happy with."

Sherry Yaniga, business partnership coordinator at the Board of Education, found people who could help her set up the education foundation she couldn't establish on her own. Yaniga's classmates in the 1995-1996 class helped her recruit businesses and others for a foundation that would give small grants to county teachers and schools.

In the year before joining the program, Yaniga had not received much response from businesses and chambers of commerce in the county. But when she and nine other Leadership students made phone calls and visits, they pulled in 95 business people to hear a pitch for the foundation.

The Twentyfirst Century Education Foundation has given nearly $60,000 in grants to schools for projects such as boosting technology, and for scholarships and awards, Yaniga said.

"It was just invaluable, the network of opportunities," she said of the Leadership program.

The network extends across the county with 182 graduates.

This year, students paid $2,250 in tuition for the nine-month program, with corporate sponsors, including The Sun, paying for the monthly sessions. Some scholarships are available.

A shorter program for executives of businesses or organizations of 50 or more people is also available.

Leadership Anne Arundel is planning a leadership training program for grass-roots activists connected with neighborhoods, churches and other community organizations. Sessions will be held evenings and weekends so that people who cannot take a day off from work every month will be able to attend.

The first sessions will be held in Annapolis with leaders in public housing, Wilson said.

Pub Date: 11/25/98

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