Call for leadership volunteers from Philip community for Horizons Program

The Horizon program is continuing to rise in communities throughout South Dakota.

On December 4th, nine community members of Philip joined the facilitators' training seminar held in Rapid City. Those people were: Britni Ross, Mary Burnett, Terry Holman, Tom Radway, Jim Kanable, Kent Olson, Shirley Chin, Adele Gelvin and Del Bartels.

Facilitators will help the 30 or more community Study Circle volunteers to work together toward a goal. These 30 plus volunteers are not to be "STP" - the same ten people - who tend to run most group functions and seem to be responsible for getting things done. Training new leaders is a major goal of Horizons, as evidenced in the Horizon motto, "Building Leadership Skills Today for Stronger Communities Tomorrow".

The next step for Philip, the Study Circle process, will require five weeks of four groups working on possible solutions to diminish poverty in the Philip area. These people will be leaders, but "being a leader, you don't necessarily have to get up in front of people and speak," said Kari Fruechte, SDSU Cooperative Extension Service Horizons Project Director.

The five meetings will be limited to two hours each. At least 30 volunteers are required, divided between four groups, with each group being ushered along by two facilitators. The facilitators will not be adding to the discussions, only making sure they stay on track and that each member participates equally.

"Study Circles" will be round table discussions aimed to bring together a wide range of community stakeholders to set a direction for the program. Other phases will include leadership training, community visioning and strategic planning. Communities will have access to a variety of resources and funding to accomplish the goals set throughout the program.

A meeting during the sixth week will bring all the groups together to combine their suggestions.

Communities are encouraged to handle their aspect of the Horizon program differently, with regard to their individual community and its members.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Jennifer Henrie or any of the facilitators listed above.

Some recent kick-off events included guest speakers and meals, but they all must include a summarization of what is expected from volunteers and the taking of a survey. Communities which have already held kick-offs include Buffalo Gap, Wagner, Faith, Tyndall and Lead/Deadwood. Upcoming kick-off events includes the communities of Murdo, Newell, Oldham, Tripp, Montrose, Frederick, Scotland and Hot Springs.

"At least 30 people must participate in the circles," said Fruechte. "As your communities get rolling with the Study Circle process we will work with you on questions, concerns, ideas, etc.

The next phase after the Study Circles of Horizons will be offering "LeadershipPlenty" classes to citizens. Three people in each community will be trained as the teachers of the classes. The sessions are highly interactive and engaging, but the people leading those sessions are key to their success. Diversity in the trainers is very helpful to attract a variety of learners.

Tentatively, the two training sites are set for March 26 to 28 in Watertown and April 12 to 14 in Rapid City. The training will be a "noon the first day until noon the third day" event. Those who complete the training will be able to continue to teach after Horizons and can travel to other communities to offer their services.

SDSU Extension began working with community development in 2004 with the assistance of a Northwest Area Foundation grant that emphasized developing local leaders to deal with challenges such as poverty.

Communities involved in this new round of the program must have fewer than 5,000 residents and a poverty rate of greater than 10 percent as of the 2000 census, according to Fruechte.

A public Spotlight session, held in Philip on September 13, brought community members together to preview resources for leadership and poverty reduction that Philip will use during the two years of the Horizons grant.

"It is time for a new generation to come forward and make something happen," said Ray Smith during the Spotlight meeting.

"Economic development is a life blood of any small community," said Roger Porch. "It is important that we have young, energetic leadership. That is the goal of Horizons."

There was a day long session in Pierre on November 8, for Philip representatives, Ross and Henrie, serving as Study Circle contacts for Philip.

"We returned to Philip with a clearer Horizons agenda and more definite goals to continue the advancement of our current leadership and community," said Ross.

Meetings and questions will address all community members, with specific interest aimed at citizens categorized as youth (7th-12th grade) and newcomers (in the Philip community for one to five years).