LEADS: Inspiring the Next Generation of GFWC Leaders
January 17, 2017
From the January+February edition of GFWC Clubwoman Magazine
Empowering. Educational. Exciting. These are three words that Kristina Higbee, a 2009 graduate of the GFWC Leadership Education and Development Seminar (LEADS), uses to describe her experience in the program.
Worthwhile and well-done, inspiring and fun—whatever words used to describe their experiences, LEADS graduates have demonstrated through their ongoing service as leaders that the program is invaluable.
Although LEADS is just a one-day event, the lessons taught at this seminar last forever. From conflict management to public speaking, the specific subject matter of LEADS changes based on feedback from participants, but the seminar teaches skills to ensure graduates have the tools necessary to be successful GFWC leaders.
Cherie Lee Williams is one of the graduates from the 2016 LEADS class. Before arriving in Baltimore, she had never attended a GFWC Annual Convention, and was a bit nervous. But when she returned home to Las Vegas the next week, she had made dozens of new connections in her LEADS class.
“It’s made me realize that I have sisters all over the world. I never had any sisters, and now I have thousands,” she said. “I understand that GFWC gives us a link in our community and other communities. It helps us understand and get our voices out there to improve what we’re doing in our local neighborhoods as well.”
Kristina, who currently serves as chairman of the GFWC Arts Community Service Program, says that LEADS is a must for anyone with aspirations of moving up in the leadership of GFWC.
“When I attended LEADS, I was fairly new in the organization and it was so inspiring to learn about our rich history. It helped to bring everything into focus and understand what we stand for and how all our communities are connected. I am honored to call myself a LEADS graduate,” she said.
Before attending LEADS, Sara Ruppel from GFWC Pennsylvania didn’t realize the extent of GFWC beyond her own state.
“I didn’t know anything about GFWC’s involvement in legislation before I attended LEADS,” she said. “I now have a whole new appreciation for the Bylaws and Resolutions section of Convention.”
Although LEADS is focused on helping clubwomen rise as leaders in GFWC, the skills gained from this seminar can also be applied in all areas of life.
“It’s a way to help your club, but it’s also a way to help yourself,” said Michele Hartlove, a 2013 LEADS graduate from the GFWC District of Columbia Woman’s Club. “What you learn can be used to help better your club, but also to better yourself.”
The seminar also gives participants a chance to form friendships and connect, which is especially important for those who may have never attended a GFWC Annual Convention. Emily White, a 2011 LEADS graduate from South Dakota, is still friends with everyone who sat at her table during the seminar.
“It’s great that everybody goes through LEADS as a group in the same room,” she said. “I think the bonding that is offered at LEADS is part of the goal.”
2013 LEADS Graduate Karyn Charvat says the experience gave her more confidence, and she realized there are many ways to serve GFWC as a leader.
“What I took away from my LEADS experience is that the networks we form in this organization are invaluable and continue to be strong years after that one day,” she said.
There are dozens of other clubwomen who have taken initiative by attending LEADS and then going on to serve as national GFWC leaders. Will you be one of them? Visit https://www.gfwc.org/membership/leads-ilts/ to learn more.
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Mary Ellen Brock
A clubwoman for 40 years, GFWC International President Mary Ellen Brock has served on all positions of the Executive Committee, GFWC New Jersey Legislation/Resolutions Committee member, GFWC New Jersey Past State President’s Club President, and North Jersey Women’s Club Treasurer.
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