Amber Voss has always been a self-proclaimed overachiever and her innate enthusiasm and determination have aided her in the role as the most recent graduate of both the youth and adult Leadership Elmore County programs.
The countywide-established class promotes the development of strong community leaders.
“I learned skills in the youth program that were useful during college and now in the workforce. I didn’t even realize everything I had been taught in the program until I reviewed my project journal and recognized those skills in myself,” said Voss, who currently serves on the LEC board of directors.
As a junior at Edgewood Academy, Voss’ guidance counselor selected her to participate in the youth LEC. She graduated from that program in 2010 with a new way to assess problems and approach the community.
“The tools the youth program provided me with were communication skills; listening skills; how to control stress; and project management skills, including the ability to come up with an idea, plan it and implement it,” said Voss.
Each individual – with the option to work in pairs – had to complete a community service project, and Voss decided to collect donations for the Hope Lodge in Birmingham. The home-away-from-home facility provides a safe, comfortable place for cancer patients and their families to stay when they’re receiving treatments.
“Even though it’s in Birmingham, it still serves residents in Elmore County that take advantage of the Hope Lodge,” said Voss.
The project required participants to choose a mentor, and Voss asked Angie Carter, who served on the Relay for Life Wetumpka committee, to be hers, since Voss was working with the nonprofit at the time.
After graduating from Troy University, Voss moved back to her hometown Wetumpka and took a job with the American Cancer Society as its Relay for Life community manager.
Living and working in Elmore County, Voss wanted to participate in the adult version of LEC, since her experience in the youth program had been so positive and informative.
“I ran into Katrina Mitchell with the Extension office while working for the YMCA of Greater Montgomery, and we talked about it. Katrina followed up with me and asked if I could fit the adult class into my work schedule,” said Voss. “The youth program focuses on a leadership curriculum and community service, while the adult program focuses more on touring the county and networking.”
Leadership Elmore County’s adult program is a nine-session course with a focus on positive leadership. Each session covered a chapter of the curriculum, which Voss said she still refers back to, and field trips were held on various topics, including Military Day, Health and Human Services Day, Education Day, State Government Day, County Government Day and three city-specific days.
“We visited the legislature on State Government Day, and I have always been interested in politics, so that was my favorite trip,” said Voss.
The program kicks off with an overnight retreat to focus on team-building exercises and introduce the classmates to one another.
“I didn’t know anyone in the class, and I was one of the youngest in the group, but it really broadened my network,” she said.
Her class started out with 14 people and 11 ended up graduating in May 2019.
“It was neat that we were a diverse group and everyone had different backgrounds. I received insight into other people’s careers and what they do,” said Voss.
The class brainstormed a community service project and decided to support the Elmore County Food Pantry through a Boston butt fundraiser. They raised $4,040 for the nonprofit organization.
“Since I was always taking notes and was very attentive, I was assigned to be the class secretary,” said Voss. “I was in charge of project reports that the LEC coordinator then sent to the board of directors.”
The biggest eye-opener for Voss was learning things she never knew about Elmore County, including the issues that face the community.
“Even though I grew up here, there were plenty of things I didn’t know. This class teaches you how to be a part of the solution, and I learned something new each session,” she said.
The adult class focused more on class member interaction and relationship building to broaden individual networks.
Now on the board of directors, Voss assists with re-branding Leadership Elmore County to serve more people.
“We’re trying to address what’s next for Leadership Elmore County,” she said. “It will be a similar format, but we want to move toward a leadership series with relevant topics for today’s leaders and allow community members the option to attend the whole series or just specific sessions.”
Regardless of career and background, LEC is a good refresher on leadership applicable to the community as a whole, she said.
“It addresses skills that benefit you personally and professionally. It shows how to be an active member of the community and teaches you how to get involved,” said Voss. “You really don’t know everything about this county that you may think. If you’re considering it, I would say definitely sign up.”
The program was founded in 2000, and the first class of 20 students graduated in 2001. Tallassee, Millbrook and Wetumpka chambers of commerce, along with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, collaborated to design the program that assists in strengthening and developing strong and productive community leaders. At present, the program is made up of 232 graduates from 17 classes, plus members of the original steering committee. For more information about LEC, visit leadershipelmorecounty.org.