Leaders have to stand out from the crowd, Coach Michael Burt told graduates of the 2013 Leadership Cumberland class last week.
"You have to compete on what makes you unique and different, to show employers you are a must have versus a nice to have," he said during the graduation celebration at Art Circle Public Library.
Fifteen individuals completed the seven-month program that has been working with future leaders of the community for more than 22 years. The class used the community as its classroom, learning about the inner workings of and issues affecting government, business, education, health care, the environment and other local areas of concern. They took part in seminars, workshops, tours and other hands-on, first-hand learning opportunities and attended state legislative committee meetings.
The group also worked together on a special class project, selecting Kids on the Rise, a local mentoring program for at-risk children, and throwing a birthday party for the students.
"My daughter is 14 years old, and every year, we have celebrated her birthday," said Melanie Graham, Leadership Cumberland graduate. "The kids in Kids on the Rise come from a variety of backgrounds and they don't always have someone in their lives to make them feel special. That's what Kids on the Rise is about."
The birthday party included a mountain of cupcakes, a bounce house, sno-cones, balloon animals and more.
"It was such a blessing to see the smiles we put on those children's faces," Graham said.
The class has committed to hosting the annual birthday bash with Kids on the Rise in future years, as well.
"The class really came together, said Marcus Matthews. "We were able to more for the community as a group then we could have individually."
Leadership Cumberland is a program of the Crossville-Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce's community development division. Local businesses sponsor the class participants.
The 2013 Leadership Cumberland class includes:
Meghan Beato serves as executive director of the Cumberland Adult Reading Council. She has a passion for training tutors and using her educational experience to support the community.
Sharon Brown, sponsored by Creative Compassion, Inc., serves as executive director of the non-profit agency.
Eric Chamberlin serves as general counsel for Cumberland medical Center.
Melanie Garrett is lead receptionist for the city of Crossville.
Julia Griffin works at Action Heating and Cooling as a customer service representative.
Kimberly Harless is assistant branch manager of Region's Bank in Fairfield Glade.
The Fairfield Glade Community Club sponsored three members of the 2013 class, Airin Harris, marketing and media coordinator; James Ivankovich, director of food and beverage; and Abby Julian, conference center and special events manager. Julia also owns and operates AJ's Trophy and Awards in Crossville.
Marcus Matthews is employed by The Rains Agency, generating new sales and maintaining those accounts from a service standpoint.
Tammie Ragsdale is currently employed by LifeCare Center of Crossville.
Whitney Sidwell is a loan officer with Mortgage Investors Group.
Linda Simmons is president of the Visually Impaired Support Group of Cumberland County and a VIS board member.
Norma Solloway is a principal owner of SmallBiz Staffing, a division of SmallBiz Resource, LLC.
Jeffrey Vires is a lawyer with Crossville firm Bean, Smith & Burnett.
For more information about Leadership Cumberland, please contact the Chamber at 484-8444.