At a time when rural communities are facing huge challenges, a dynamic program is helping shape the future of the Salkehatchie region.
Leadership Salkehatchie, a partnership between the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie’s Leadership Institute and SouthernCarolina Alliance, helps identify individuals with leadership potential from the seven-county region (Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties) and raises them to a new level of awareness and community involvement. The intensive leadership program provides insight into issues that affect economic development including workforce training, infrastructure, health care, education and quality of life.
“It’s imperative that we identify the emerging leaders and talent in our region so that they will have a comprehensive understanding of our region’s current and future assets and challenges,” SCA’s vice president Kay Maxwell said. “We are pleased that many of our past leadership participants are now today’s leaders in industry, business, nonprofits, and local and county government. They are making decisions every day that will create stronger communities for our future. SouthernCarolina Alliance is proud to be a part of that.”
SCA believes leadership development is so critical to the region’s future that they are providing full scholarships for every participant selected in this highly competitive program.
Leadership Salkehatchie began over 20 years ago as a small group of community members who were concerned and sought changes about the challenges facing the Salkehatchie region, one of the most impoverished areas of our state. Anne Rice, USC Salkehatchie Leadership Institute’s former executive director, was instrumental in getting the program off the ground. Her goal was to help people from the region become better-informed citizens and provide a platform for diverse groups of citizens to work together to improve the livability of their communities.
Today, the program not only focuses on local impact but also on the ability to effect change on the state and national levels. Visits with state representatives, as well as a day trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with regional legislative delegations, are now included to provide the opportunity for participants to share their community concerns.
Past participants cite the skills and experiences that they have gained from Leadership Salkehatchie as a reason for their increased community involvement.
2014 Salkehatchie Leadership participant Kristin Huber said the one-year investment in the program has paid substantial dividends in her current role as public relations specialist with government and community relations at Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.
“Through this program I created relationships with business leaders from across the seven-county reach of the SCA, some of which I still rely heavily on today. This program poured skills and opportunities into my career that were impactful but also unique to the characteristics of our exceptional region,” Huber said.
Many of the Leadership Salkehatchie participants have returned to the rural Lowcountry after leaving to fulfill educational or career goals. Drawn back to the region because of its unique attributes, their passions for the communities drives their desires to improve the quality of life for the citizens. Barnwell County Councilman Daniel Alexander is one such participant.
“Barnwell County is a place that means so much to my family and me. My wife and I graduated from Barnwell High School and decided to move back to raise our family here. I am the type of person who wants to get involved in the community where I live. The opportunity to shape the way our county will look in the future is an important goal that I take very seriously,” Alexander said.
Shelby Broomfield, program director for Dreams Imagination and Gift Development Program, echoes that sentiment.
“Barnwell will always be home for me. While growing up and going to college, I was able to meet so many people from so many different places. Meeting people from different places and from more metropolitan areas, always made me question moving out of state and to other places. As I grew, learned more and attained more education, I always thought of what I could do with my experience and talent back at home. Why not give my talent and experience back to a town that has helped mold me into the person I am today? What changes could I make? How can I make a difference? For those reasons, I wanted to use my talent and experience to serve my hometown.”
Broomfield now inspires students in the Salkehatchie region by providing STEM opportunities and helping students build confidence in these skills.
“Working with students to help prepare them for future jobs and positions in the STEM fields is very important. The STEM career field is a lucrative career choice in which there are many career options in the field, but a gap in filling those jobs because of the struggle to find skilled employees. Our hope is that when our students make their future career plans and go off to college with students from bigger areas with more resources than our area, that they feel confident and competent in these skills. Our hope is that when our students graduate from college in a STEM field, they can identify a STEM industry in our region and make the choice to come and give back to our region.”
Others have been inspired by the program’s discussions. During a meeting held at the Darla Moore School of Business on the University of S.C. campus, the Class of 2020 participated in sessions led by USC president Bob Caslen, state superintendent of education Molly Spearman, and Maceo Nance, director of targeted rural strategy and special projects for the S.C. Department of Commerce.
During these sessions, participant Amye Stivender gained valuable insight that has helped her react to the recent challenges she has faced in her job as lieutenant of support services and public information officer for the City of Walterboro.
“Leaders emerge when difficult times arise. They find new and innovative ways to overcome challenges and rise to find solutions to problems that are plaguing their communities. Strong community leaders will lead from the front. This is something that President Caslen spoke with my leadership class about during one of our sessions. It is something that I have found to be true during times of crisis. It is important to have local officials working together with the community to have the most beneficial outcomes,” Stivender said.
Leadership Salkehatchie is currently seeking applications for the Class of 2021. Participants must be nominated by their peers and go through an application process. Previous Salkehatchie classes have included business leaders, educators, community leaders, law enforcement and many others from across the regions.
The year-long program includes monthly seminars with experts, tours of the Salkehatchie region and opportunities for participants to meet with government leaders to exchange information and concerns. Leadership Salkehatchie often accesses the university’s resources to enhance leadership development skills. Kirk Randazzo, a USC professor of political science and leadership, is a frequent presenter. His “Leadership in 3-D” presentation challenges participants to look at their current leadership styles and examine their roles as community leaders.
“Leadership Salkehatchie is an excellent program that will allow you to get to know the community in a way that most people will never experience. The program offers insights into every industry, level of government and historical aspects of the region, providing perspectives from grass root development to state and federal policies. Leadership Salkehatchie inspires you to serve,” Tony Jackson, director of enrollment management at USC Salkehatchie said.
If you are interested in participating in Leadership Salkehatchie or nominating someone to participate, please visit www.uscsalkehatchieleadership.org or contact Jessica Goodwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.