OXFORD, Miss. — Twenty-seven local leaders take their fine-tuned skills into the community after graduating from the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce’s 31st annual Leadership Lafayette Program last week (on August 22, 2019). The eight-month program is centered on enhancing teamwork, generating and executing new ideas and serving the local community.
“I’m extremely honored each year to be apart of such a prestigious group of leaders in Lafayette Oxford University community,” said Torie Marion, Leadership Lafayette Program chair. “I know this class will do like so many of the others and go on to do great things in this community and state.”
The 2019 class includes: Rachel Alcorn, Communicare; Celesia Blackmon; Kurt Brummett, United Way of Oxford & Lafayette County; Chase Buchanan, BancorpSouth; Anginita Butler, Next Gear Solutions; Edy Dingus, Magnolia Montessori School; Alison Doyle; Hunter Haney, North Mississippi Regional Center; Blake Horton, Oxford Police Department; Danielle King, Grantham Poole; Katie Krouse, LuLus Shoes and Accessories.; Daniel Lenard, Baptist Memorial Hospital – North Mississippi; Jessica Lynch, Visit Oxford; Katrenia Meeks, Family Crisis Services of Northwest Mississippi, Inc.; John Melton, Communicare; Michael Newsom, The University of Mississippi; Bess Nichols Fisher; Tanya Nichols, The University of Mississippi; Clifton Odom, Chancellors House Hotel; Doug Odom, mTrade; Wendy Pfrenger, University of Mississippi; Joel Reeves, Charter Road Hospitality; Andrew Reynolds, A2H; Nishanth Rodrigues, The University of Mississippi; Hunter Taylor, The University of Mississippi; and Amy Woodward, American Addiction Centers/Oxford Treatment Center.
The 2019 graduating class planned diverse community projects by dividing into four teams to focus on LOU Help, Fearless Millennials – Operation GCCC (Gordon Community & Cultural Center), Play Without Barriers, and Summer Lovin’.
The LOU Help team focused on establishing a database of resources for the LOU community. LOUHelp.com, the product of the group’s hard work, is a searchable database of resources for the Oxford-Lafayette community. On this website, community members are able to find contact information for resources from the Poison Control Center to the Boys and Girls Club.
The Fearless Millennials group launched ‘Operation GCCC’ with the original goal of building a fence for the Gordon Community and Cultural Center. During the course of Leadership Lafayette, this group not only accomplished that, but they also raised $3,650 for GCCC, increased awareness of GCCC in the community and helped GCCC secure a $5,000 grant from LOFT.
The Play Without Barriers group set a lofty goal of raising $20,000 in just eight months for the The Mississippi Society for Disabilities (MSD). These funds will go towards building the accessible and inclusive Bailey Branch playground. Through several fundraising endeavors, including hosting Jazz Under the Stars, and selling personalized brick pavers that will be installed at the playground, this group raised an astonishing $25,654.68. MSD Executive Director Michael Grantham and Program Manager Zac Halstead were brought to tears when presented with the check at graduation.
The Summer Lovin’ group took a completely empty Oxford Lovepacks food pantry and turned it into a completely full pantry by the time school started. Lovepacks is an organization that is committed to providing packs of food to Oxford and Lafayette County school children in need. Summer Lovin’ not only received donations in the form of food, but they also raised $500 for Lovepacks.
This year’s Leadership Lafayette class presented the 2019 Leadership Award to Tanya Nichols. Nichols is a Project Manager with the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi.
“This year’s class had unprecedented chemistry in their small groups,” said Pam Swain, Leadership Lafayette program director and senior vice president of the Chamber. “They each had a great amount of passion for their community and worked hard for the organizations they got involved with through their projects. I salute this unique group of leaders for the lasting impact they have left on this community through their determination and goals with their community projects.”
The Chamber was excited to have a first-time sponsor of the Leadership Lafayette program through local storage company Your Extra Closet. YEC’s President and CEO Floyd Hubbell took part in the graduation ceremony by presenting the graduates with their plaques. In closing of the ceremony Hubbell said, “We will definitely continue to sponsor Leadership Lafayette. It’s been an honor to see everything these leaders have done in the community during this program.”
The Leadership Lafayette is organized by a Steering Committee made of up hand selected program alumni. The dedicated steering committee handles all the details of the program, including all session speakers and locations, food details, and the intense class selection process.
The 2019 committee includes: Torie Marion, Program Chair, Ole Miss Alumni Association (Class of 2009); Wayne Andrews, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council (Class of 2011); Quentin Brewer, BancorpSouth (Class of 2015); Jennifer Eastland (Class of 2015); Ashley Frye, Office of Dr. Tom Fowlkes (Class of 2011); Amy Goodin, The University of Mississippi (Class of 2016); Caitlin Hopper, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council (Class of 2016); Hardie Meeks, Circuit Court, Third District Drug Court (Class of 2016); Kristi Peeples, Renasant Bank (Class of 2010); Susan Peterson, First Data (Class of 2007); Cayce Read, CoreLogic/FNC Inc. (Class of 2018); Jeremy Roberts, The University of Mississippi (Class of 2014); Sha’ Simpson, NMRC (Class of 2017); Afton Thomas, The University of Mississippi (Class of 2017); Ryan Upshaw, The University of Mississippi (Class of 2009); Brian Whisenant, Oxford Treatment Center (Class of 2018); and Jessica Windham, Oxford Rental Properties (Class of 2007).
The 2019 class also chose two representatives to join other alumni on the steering committee. Those selected to join the team were Rachel Alcorn and Edy Dingus.
The Chamber of Commerce will begin accepting applications for the 2020 Leadership Lafayette class in late October 2019, with the deadline in early December of this year. Class selection will be in mid-December and the 2020 class will begin in January.