Anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes with me knows that, at any given time, I may ask a million questions during a conversation. I have always been a ‘question-asker’. However, depending on the context, question-asking takes on different interpretations to different people. When I was 10, my mom called me naturally inquisitive. When I was 16, my sister called me nosy. When I became a teacher, my school administrator recognized my question-asking technique as a ‘Socratic strategy used to promote thoughtful dialogue and critical thinking with my students.’ Seriously, that’s what she wrote. No matter the perspective, for me, the investigation process does not seek to just engage in a problem-solving exercise but to comprehend how people string together strategies and thoughts to produce a desired outcome. When I ask questions, I am participating in an information exchange to gain another point of view. Once that perspective is had, I can make informed next step decisions.
As you can imagine, Leadership Tallahassee (LT), and especially the program days, offered a large, diverse platform for information exchange. It was my playground. Program days provided insight into specific sectors of the community – untapped resources that could serve many of the families in our area. With each program day, I progressively realized that this community does not suffer from a lack of resources. On the contrary, this community has a plethora of services that can meet the unique needs of its citizenry. If the information gap was the issue, program days were designed to fill such gaps; subsequently, I felt it was my job, as a Leadership Tallassee participant, to learn as much as possible to ensure I spread accurate info. So, my inquiries served as more than natural inquisition or shear nosiness – they are part and parcel of the responsibilities as an LT member. Or it is, at least, how I rationalized it.
While the LT program days were fun, they did serve a larger purpose. Those days introduced me to other sectors that could assist the efforts of ASPIRE Capital Region. ASPIRE Capital Region, co-lead by me (LT 37), Corrie Melton (LT 9), Vice President for Membership for the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, and Kim Kelling-Engstrom (LT 28), Director of Content for WFSU, is a collective impact that leverages the assets of partner organizations and community stakeholders to bridge the gaps in the effort to scale education and workforce opportunities for students in this community. Education researchers and Florida economists predict by as early as 2021, but no later than 2030, 60% of gainful employment will require a high-quality, postsecondary credential. Much of the gainful employment within the community stems from current, former, or future LT graduates. So, the timeliness in my LT participation was ideal.
Although I personally enjoyed the opportunity to put out a fire, to witness a trial in front of the Florida Supreme Court, and tour District 3 on a school bus, I recognize the responsibility that comes with the LT experience. It is imperative that I leverage the relationships I have built through my LT experience to benefit the next generation of this community’s workforce. Since participating in LT 37, I, acting on behalf of ASPIRE, have been able to arrange for several of my classmates to visit Godby high school to discuss career options. But it is time to do more. It is important that ASPIRE continues to develop partnerships that lead to internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training programs for students. Such experiences will provide them with experiential learning opportunities that will infuse hope, trust, and confidence. After 14 years of working with students, hope, trust, and confidence are key components if students are expected to shape his/her trajectory beyond simply graduating high school.
So, I am thankful for the Chamber for supporting a networking experience capable of growing Tallahassee’s workforce. I am thankful to Leadership Tallahassee, its Board, program day chairs, and staff for producing program days that afforded our class to learn about all Tallahassee has to offer. And I thank my classmates for indulging me in my many questions.
Thank you, LT!