Akers, Darling, McDavid in Leadership Mississippi
Some people never stop looking for opportunities to advance their goals, especially those recruited for leadership classes.
Ryan Akers and Chance McDavid are two representatives of the Mississippi State University Extension Service who are taking part in the Leadership Mississippi program. Lynn Darling, director of the MSU Early Childhood Institute, is also in the 2013 class. After one meeting, they have set their sights on expanding their professional agendas across the state.
Akers, assistant Extension professor of community preparation and disaster management, described the program as an opportunity for him to learn how communities across the state are preparing for potential disasters.
“After just one meeting, I’ve talked to another participant, Sandra Hodge, who is director of the Mississippi Red Cross,” he said. “This gave me the opportunity to introduce her to some of my programs, and hopefully set the stage for working together in the future.”
McDavid, senior Extension associate and regional broadband coordinator based in Raymond, said he hopes to enhance his professional network with other community and business leaders across the state. In his current job, McDavid partners MSU’s Extension Center for Technology Outreach and the Office of the Governor to help communities improve their access to and use of broadband services.
“With more than 900 Leadership Mississippi alumni, this group is a great way for me to build relationships to impact our state by strategic service projects and initiatives to improve the quality of life for the state’s residents,” McDavid said. “Helping improve access to and adoption of broadband connections can generate a number of positive impacts in communities, such as education and economic development.”
With more than 30 graduating classes since 1974, Leadership Mississippi is the second oldest statewide leadership program in the nation. It is an annual program of the Mississippi Economic Council conducted by the M.B. Swayze Educational Foundation.
Darling said she plans to develop relationships with business and community leaders to increase support of early childhood education. She said this is an educational, economic and social issue, and all communities benefit when young children are enrolled in high-quality programs.
“Extensive research in early childhood education demonstrates the critical role early learning experiences play in the lives of individuals. Young children who attend high-quality, early-care and education centers are more prepared for school and more likely to graduate on time, pursue higher education and have higher earning over their lifetimes,” Darling said. “They are also less likely to repeat a grade or drop out, less likely to become teen parents and less likely to be incarcerated or have substance abuse problems.”
Akers said each participant will be exploring his or her individual concerns or issues.
“While there are other content areas in Leadership Mississippi, the program will give me a platform to develop and sustain community resilience in a disaster and work with people across the state who deal with emergency management initiatives,” Akers said.
Akers said the first meeting addressed the legislative process as it relates to Mississippi. Subsequent meetings will focus on issues critical to Mississippi such as education, tourism and economic development.
Leadership classes will take place in different regions of the state throughout the year. At each one, local participants will make presentations about the perceptions of their area, both true and false.
“In this year's program, participants are targeting the public perceptions of their home towns and respective areas of the state, both accurate and inaccurate, in an effort to promote an accurate depiction of the uniqueness and great qualities that all of our areas have to offer the citizens of Mississippi,” Akers said.
Linda Breazeale | MSU Ag Communications