How it Started, and How it’s Going
Once upon a time…. many moons ago… I was sixteen years old. I was a Junior attending Lawton Chiles High School, learning to drive and performing in school musicals when a newsletter was sent to parents touting a leadership program offered by the Chamber – Youth Leadership Tallahassee. The program was beginning its third year and looking for new recruits to represent all the high schools in the district. When my parents approached me about applying for it, they regaled me with stories of their time in Leadership Tallahassee back when it was a fledgling program Bobby Bacon (LT 2) and Debbie Bacon (LT 3). I smiled and nodded, unsure how this club for important old people had anything to do with me but my 16-year-old brain translated this information to one day out of school a month’ and ‘possibility of cute guys from other schools.’ So, I applied.
We were a rowdy class; we got in trouble on our opening retreat for jumping cannonballs into the pool. We made lemonade stands downtown (team Green!) and repelled off towers. We fought and cried during our SIMSOC experiment, learned many important lessons about being a good leader, and made lifelong friends.
I was so fortunate to meet these amazing kids’ from all over. (As far as high school Lauren was concerned, Lincoln and Godby might as well be in Croatia.) It opened my heart to the vastness of our town and the possibility of doing great things in partnership with all the immense talent that surrounds us.
Fast forward, a million years to today! I had been anxiously awaiting the ‘right time’ to apply for Leadership Tallahassee; lying in wait attending the Building Better Boards program as well as Opportunity Tallahassee. 2020 came around and I said, “this is my year!” (What are….quotes that aged like milk?) I applied and joyously accepted the invitation to be a part of Leadership Tallahassee Class 38!
Not going to lie: Starting off this year was a struggle. The Great 38 started off akin to that of a newborn gazelle. We oriented virtually. (What the heck is Zoom? Am I on mute?) We retreated together on Zoom! (with THREE Fresh Prince introductions #freshestclassever). We started to find our virtual stride but deeply missed being together in person. The amazing Chamber team Barbara, Becky, and our incredible tech guru extraordinaire Rebekah worked out ways for us to be together, socially distanced, and safe. We are forever grateful for the opportunity to improv, adapt, and overcome the obstacles the pandemic threw at us. These challenges kept us physically apart but brought us together in a way none of us expected. We had a mock trial! We created art! We shot rifles! We broke many a 6-foot story stick (sorry, Becky!) We learned Zoom, and FaceTime, and the importance of connecting in unconventional ways.
Through it all, the moral remains the same. We made lifelong friends, explored an extraordinary town, and learned how to be better citizens. Now, that I am ‘older,’ my new LT friends at Nims, Elder Care, Pace, and TMH don’t seem so far away. I look forward to a time we can all be together in person safely and mask-free (Y’all better get ready for some hugs!). I await with great excitement our class project and hope that we can create something as lasting and impactful as Youth Leadership Tallahassee. So, I will sign off with a heartfelt “Thank You” to Leadership Tallahassee Class 20 for creating a life-changing program that I am so grateful to have been a part of all those years ago. Youth Leadership Tallahassee Class 3 and Leadership Tallahassee Class 38 have changed my life for the better and I am so proud to be the first graduate of both!