PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE: Leaders wanted for Gwinnett's future

Calling all community leaders. Do you want to make a difference in your community and neighborhood? Would you like to meet the movers and shakers in Gwinnett that can help you make it happen? Then you need to apply for the next class of the Gwinnett Neighborhood Leadership Institute kicking off in August.

The Gwinnett Neighborhood Leadership Institute (GNLI) is a program of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services, a non-profit organization. GNLI has been operating for over 18 years, making a huge difference in Gwinnett.

“GNLI was started as a way to get every day citizen’s involved in improving their neighborhoods and communities,” said Ellen Gerstein, Executive Director.

GNLI is an eight-month program that meets on one Saturday a month and begins with a two-day weekend retreat. The Institute provides students a training program, provided by the UGA Fanning Institute which focuses on five core areas: understanding community leadership, effective communication, group decision making, building communities through collaboration and leading community change. One of the most valuable components of the program and a requirement of graduation is a community improvement project, which allows participants to put their training to work, all while making a practical, tangible difference in the community.

Examples of past projects include a money management courses for youth, a new and improved helpline website, senior resource support, transportation initiatives and many more. “Projects like this help better our local community and give participants an up-close view of the challenges but also the opportunities that exists,” says Gerstein. “Gwinnett County has poverty, homelessness, a growing immigrant and senior population – issues no different than DeKalb or Fulton. However, there are less resources and infrastructure to address these needs. It is the citizen’s who ultimately have to take action to address these issues.” GNLI provides that forum.

There are citizens at all levels that are interested and want to get involved because they believe they can make a difference. We [GNLI] bring them together, build their knowledge, increase their networks and hopefully empower them to keep it going.

“There are several leadership programs that exist in this community. They are all valuable and special. GNLI is very special to our organization and community because of the direct impact in underserved communities. For 18 years, we’ve been inspiring civic engagement and community improvement. I feel honored to have the opportunity to work with so many wonderful community leaders year after year.”

For more information about the upcoming 2013-2014 Class of the Gwinnett Neighborhood Leadership Institute visit www.gnli.org. Or call Nicole Hendrickson, program director at 678-377-4137. We are currently accepting nominations and applications. Application deadline is April 1.