Leadership program announces expansion, focus on inclusion

DULUTH -- A $600,000 campaign could help Gwinnett's premier leadership program engage a larger and more diverse segment of the community.

Dozens of the county's civic and business leaders mingled Wednesday at the 1818 Club for the kickoff of the fundraising campaign.

"It's such a fabulous program," said Mike Tennant, the chairman of the Leadership Gwinnett Gwinnett Foundation's board of directors. "Our graduates immediately engage in the community with knowledge of the issues and bring credibility to the discussions."

With the conclusion of the program's 29th class, which is set to begin a nine-month program in August, the nonprofit will have trained 1,000 graduates, many of which are commissioners, council members, school principals, and volunteers.

But with the launch of a new "snapshot" session, which will last through a long weekend instead of a school year, officials hope they can reach more people.

"I think that will create a lot of opportunity to reach into parts of the community that we can't," campaign co-chair Dan King said, adding that another goal would give scholarships and increase efforts to be inclusive to all races, gender and professions. The fundraiser would also be used to empower the program's alumni.

"Our leadership in the county is hugely important," added campaign co-chair Tammy Shumate.

At Wednesday's celebration, Shumate announced that the campaign had already raised $399,000, committed over the next five years, or about 67 percent of the goal.

State Rep. Pedro Marin, who was going through the Leadership Gwinnett program when he was elected to the General Assembly, said he appreciated the effort toward increasing diversity.

"I think it's important, with the makeup of Gwinnett as majority-minority," he said. "A lot of people can't do Leadership Gwinnett because of the time consumed and the money. (The program expansion) will get people from a lot of races and backgrounds to work for the betterment of Gwinnett."