Leaders create leaders:

Exploring Leadership Sandpoint

By Tamara Cornwell
Reader Contributor

The Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Sandpoint Program, started in 1993, exists to identify leaders in this area, and give them first-hand information from professionals active in the community. In 2007 Kate McAlister took over as President and CEO of the Chamber and began her work on a “different school of thought presented professionally in a friendly environment.”

Leadership Sandpoint’s class. Courtesy photo.

Leadership Sandpoint’s class. Courtesy photo.

Leadership students hear from judges, teachers, doctors, nonprofit organizations, and other community professionals, who help students understand the roles and responsibilities of citizen leaders in their professional capacities. In the discussion panels that follow, these professionals answers questions regarding their understanding of issues in the community and current efforts to identify and address these issue.

Class sizes are limited to no more than  20 participants, who identify their personal strengths early in the process. Once per month, future leaders participate in a day-long class covering a variety of topics.  Class time is allocated for board training which explores topics such as roles and responsibilities as board member, the chair person’s role as a servant leader, missions/visions/values, board members as fundraisers and advisors, and making diversity meaningful. The overall goal being that graduates of the program can participate as effective board members if they choose to.

The program’s first year begins in September with a team-building day held at Schweitzer. During this initial class, students meet and greet their peers, and are provided a general overview of what they can expect from this program.

October’s class, “Cornerstones of Sandpoint,” has students tour the museum and downtown area. Speakers share knowledge about the industries such as timber and railroad, and founding families that played a crucial role in the development of the Greater Sandpoint Area. Geological and political history of the region are touched upon as well.

In November’s Education and Arts class students tour the Library, Forrest Bird Charter school, the Waldorf, School, and Sandpoint High School. Individuals who are committed to the lifelong pursuit of education within our community share their efforts and visions. With a visit to the Panida Theater students learn about the history of the building as well as productions in the works. Next door the Pend Oreille Arts Council houses sculpture, photography, canvases, and jewelry made by artists in the region.

With over 150 non-profit organizations in the Sandpoint Area, it is clear that service and activism are important to the civic culture of this community. During December’s Human and Community Service class nonprofits such as the Youth Center, the Food Bank, and the Panhandle Animal Shelter are invited to share the details of their cause and strategic plans for the future success of their organization. After hearing from the presenters, students pick an organization or several to assist. One requirement of the program directs the class to act as a sponsor, by organizing and facilitating a fundraiser for their chosen non-profit(s).

January’s Health and Wellness class features health care professionals knowledgeable in both conventional and alternative education and practices. Bonner General Health, Hospice, Nutrition, and mental health are topics that are also discussed at length.

Presentations regarding law enforcement, local and state government, the judicial and criminal systems take place in February. Both elected and appointed officials such as the mayor, district judges, and a city prosecutor outline the responsibilities and challenges of their role in the community. Students tour the Jail, Sheriff’s department, and Juvenile Detention Center.

The next three classes explore Economic Drivers, Sustainability, and Natural Resources and Tourism where students will explore real time and future community challenges and opportunities. The final class consists of a Planning Session for Next year’s program.

“Leadership is the most underutilized resource in business today,” said Kate McAlister. Our community benefits from leaders whom have gained wisdom, knowledge of the community network, the business ecosystem, and understanding of the communities needs along with tools to deal with changes on the horizon. Most importantly, as Kate McAlister often comments, “Leaders create leaders”. This concept illustrates how Sandpoint Leadership’s Program has potential to benefit others outside of our community.

Members of the community are encouraged to participate, nominate, and/or sponsor individuals for future classes. The application process begins in  mid-July, with a deadline for priority enrollment of late August, after which applicants will continue to be accepted on a first come first serve basis until the class is full. Requirements for consideration involve submitting an online application and letter of recommendation.  Participation involves a two-year commitment, first through the classes and community project, later through roles as organizers, facilitators, and mentors for the incoming class.

The cost of tuition for chamber members is $325 and $375 for non-chamber members, and due by September for the 2017 class. A $25 deposit is due with the submission of the application. The deposit is only refundable if you are not accepted into the program. Tuition covers two-year program costs for meals, transportation, books, materials, and administration fees. For more information you can contact the Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce Monday through Friday during the hours from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. by phone at (208) 263-2161 or by emailing [email protected]

This year’s class of 2016 seeks to strengthen Leadership Sandpoint’s presence in the community by forming an alumni group. Alumni interested in being involved are asked to send information including their first and last name, the year they graduated from the program, the name of company or organization they are currently involved with, a phone number, and an email address to: [email protected]

Look for part two of this three-piece feature on Leadership Sandpoint in an upcoming issue of the Reader.

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