After sharing exciting experiences with a group of local professionals for eight months, Tawanda Outlaw said she would do it again.
“Each of you have been instrumental in my life, in different ways … in ways that I won’t forget,” Outlaw said. “This has been enlightening for me in growing professionally and personally.”
Outlaw, a health professional from the Sampson Regional Medical Center for Health and Wellness, was one of several people who graduated from Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce’s 2015-16 Leadership Class. A celebration was held Tuesday at The Hungry Farmer. For more than 10 years, the program has provided participants exposure to issues and opportunities in the area. During the eight-month program, trips were made to several sites, so participants could get a up-close look at county operations. At the event, a few participants shared their experiences.
Along with other presenters, she enjoyed interacting with her classmates and showed appreciation for the individuals involved. Outlaw said it was eye-opening, fascinating and intriguing.
“Any other adjective that you want to add, you can,” Outlaw said. “It has been a tremendous eye-opener for me. I had no idea half the things I saw in Sampson County even existed.”
During the celebration, participants shared their experiences. Blair Hairr, dean of Student Services for Sampson Community College, showed appreciation for her fellow classmates and discussed her love for her home county and the opportunities available.
“You can just see the commitment of the leaders in the community,” Hairr said.
One of the first activities was Agriculture Day and learning about the economic impact of the industry. The class visited the Smithfield facility and learned about its inner workings.
“Through the whole program, I felt that every day I was learning something that I had not known about Sampson County,” Hairr said. “It continued to grow my pride as a Sampson County resident.”
Faith Jackson, community liaison for Clinton City Schools, said it was an honor to participate and meet leaders associated with the program. Members spent time at health facilities, emergency operations and met law professionals. She discussed visiting agriculture places, local school systems and businesses such as Schindler Elevator, Star Communications and Cintas, a uniform manufacturer. Also, participants visited state facilities and a history museum in Raleigh.
“Now that we know what we’re part of, we can make others aware and be proud of serving Sampson County to the highest potential in our individual capacity,” Jackson said.
Jackson did not know a lot of the participants, but the contacts opened her eyes to new things.
“Thank you for being on the adventure, it was a true honor,” Jackson said.
She encouraged her classmates to learn and discover something new in their fields of work, even if they make mistakes.
“Break rules — leave the world and Sampson County more interesting for you being there,” Jackson said.
Greg Thornton, chair of the Leadership Steering Committee, said it’s a program very near and dear to his heart and thanked employers, sponsors and the committee. He awarded certificates with the assistance of Anthony Sessoms, president of the Chamber’s board. He encouraged the graduates to go out and find leaders such as themselves for the next class.
“This leadership program is excellent and I’m going to recruit you to be great people for the chamber,” Thornton said.
2015-16 Leadership Program Graduates
Jennifer Ellis — Star Communications
Faith Jackson — Clinton City Schools
Terrace Miller — Clinton City Schools
Scott Phillips — City of Clinton
Charlotte Harrell — Matthews Health Mart
Tracy Horne — Prestage Farms
Jill Cairney — Sampson Regional Medical Center
Tawanda Outlaw — Center for Health and Wellness
Amanda Turner — Town of Newton Grove
Blair Hairr — Sampson Community College
Rhonda Brock — First Citizens Bank
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.