October 2022 eNews Guest Editor, Willie Williams (LT 38)

“Is Leadership Tallahassee for me”? “I probably do not have the background experiences they are looking for to be accepted”. “I bet you have to know the right people to be considered for this program”.  

These were some of the random thoughts that ran through my mind as I gazed at the Leadership Tallahassee “Application Now Open” promotion for the recruitment of Class 38. Fast forward to today, I am a proud graduate of #LT38 and thankful I took the leap to apply to this exceptional opportunity. I am writing this article for those who are uncertain if this program is meant for you. Nothing I had encountered throughout my nearly twenty years of community service could have prepared me for the experience, knowledge, and friendships I gained in Leadership Tallahassee. You are destined for this program and this program is intended for you!

I have been serving the City of Tallahassee for nearly twenty years. Some of my professional experiences have involved building a national award-winning, city-wide youth employment program for the City of Tallahassee, assisting at-risk students at Pace Center for Girls, Inc. in graduating from high school with a diploma or GED and currently serving as an assistant professor in the Health Sciences Division of the School of Allied Health Sciences at the Florida A&M University. I spend most of my time outside of my profession mentoring, advising youth programs and organizing youth events. As one who experienced being a troubled youth, giving back to the community has been my way to pay homage to society for the opportunities I was given to be the best version of myself. Again, nothing I had encountered throughout my years of community service could have prepared me for the experience, knowledge, and friendships I gained in Leadership Tallahassee.

After having heartfelt conversations with mentors and community leaders I truly admired like Kelly Otte (LT 21) and Darryl Jones (LT 20), I knew this was a program I needed to experience. Not only did I feel it would be a great development tool for me, but I encouraged my son, Darell Williams, to apply for the Youth Leadership Tallahassee program as well. Darell was an up-and-coming Senior at FAMU DRS.  Although, he was a member of the Omega Lamplighters, he was still in need leadership exposure and development. After a great father and son conversation, we submitted our applications and were both accepted, myself to #LT38 and my son #YLT17, and thus our journeys began.

From the start of the Opening Retreat to all the strategically structure workshops such as Education & Workforce Development Day, Public Safety Day and Sustainability Day, I experienced Tallahassee/Leon County from a different viewpoint and understand a lot more about what it takes to connect the appropriate resources with the community. There are truly no words to describe the bonding of nearly forty strangers from various professional backgrounds that fused together to gain new understanding while building lifelong friendships. We laughed, we cried, we uplifted, we learned and now we are making great contributions back to the City we all love. With the sincerest words I say: Thank you to the Leadership Tallahassee program and staff that put so much into making sure it is impactful every year.

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