Most of you know I come from a family that believes in public service. I remember my first elected office as a junior at San Bernardino High School. I was elected by the student body to represent them on the SB School Board. The next year I was elected Commissioner of Assemblies and Elections. I knew then that I had a civic responsibility to my “community” and I took pride in that service. We truly value serving our community: my father served on the San Bernardino School Board for 12 years, my mother is completing her first term in the California State Assembly, my brother is currently a trustee on the San Bernardino County Board of Education, and I continue to serve – while in an appointed capacity – on the Fortune Schools Board of Education governing five high performing charter schools in San Bernardino and Sacramento.
I realize most people are not exposed to civic leadership and engagement in the same manner.
Last week I had an interesting conversation on civic and city leadership with a friend at the League of California Cities Annual Conference in Los Angeles. My friend was reflecting on his own experience as a participant in Leadership Denver when he was a resident of that city. He said the experience introduced him to significant aspects of civic life that he would have never been exposed to otherwise. He then asked if there was any comparable program here in the Inland Empire.
As a Riverside resident, I am well aware of the successful Leadership Riverside program sponsored by the Riverside Chamber of Commerce. Riverside’s 10-month programempowers decision-makers of local businesses, government, non-profit organizations, schools and universities, with the knowledge to address critical regional issues. Of all the cities in the region, Riverside actually has an abundance of leadership development programs. The Eleanor Jean Grier Leadership Academy, organized by the Riverside African-American Historical Society and The Group meets at the Riverside County Fair Housing office in Downtown Riverside and offers mentorship and leadership training in civic and pubic affairs especially to members of underrepresented groups. And the Pick Group, an organization that provides opportunities for young professionals to engage civically, also hosts an annual academy to train and develop young professionals to be able to serve effectively on non-profit boards for the betterment of Riverside.
I mistakenly told my friend that other Inland cities do not have similar programs, so the idea for this rant initially began as a call to city leadership to follow Riverside’s example. Then I made a few calls. My sister Lynn, an active resident of Rialto, shared with me information on a program that city leaders created to educate residents about city government. The Rialto Institute of Progress meets for 8 weeks and provides residents with the education necessary to serve on the city’s commissions and boards. Contact Angie Perry at (909) 421-4991 if you’re interested in participating in the next class. It begins in a week. And with a call to San Bernardino Councilman Rikke Van Johnson I learned about Leadership San Bernardino, a leadership development program that like Riverside, is organized by the city’s Chamber of Commerce. The new class starts in a few weeks so call (909) 885-7515 to participate.
I encourage you to see what leadership programs are available in your city and devote some time to learning more about how you can get involved. Please keep me informed. I am looking forward to sharing your story and raving about your involvement to the larger community.