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Community Voices by Dave Allen: Lessons learned from Leadership Morgan Hill’s ‘Community Oasis’ project

Published in the September 28 – October 11, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Dave Allen

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Dave Allen

A year ago a friend asked me if I wanted to participate in Leadership Morgan Hill. The program is designed to develop leaders and provide an opportunity to make a difference. During an interviewing process (yes, to participate I had to be interviewed), I found out the program would involve a class or two a month, several field trips, exposure to local and state governmental officials and a class project. The proposition sounded interesting, so I joined 19 strangers on this nine-month journey.

What did I learn from the program? A number of things…actually too many to list, but here are just a few:

Leadership doesn’t require a specific title or a position. Ronald Reagan, I think, said it well: “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

To get people to do the greatest things, a leader needs to inspire; communicate a vision; recognize that everyone has something to contribute toward achieving a common goal; and build and nurture relationships that enable people to work effectively to achieve the goal.

Our class project was ambitious — to transform a vacant weed-infested lot with an ugly water pump into an educational community park we dubbed an “Oasis” at the Loritta Bonfante Johnson Education Center. Through collaboration with school officials and generous support of merchants and the community, our class raised more than $72,000 in to make the park a reality.

What was once a fenced-in lot is now open to the community to enjoy. Where dirt and weeds once dominated the landscape, six benches, flower beds and plants welcome visitors. Where a rusty and litter-filled water pump once stood, neighbors now see an attractively painted water pump surrounded by potato plants. The dilapidated fences that bordered the park and the school have been replaced by new black iron fencing.

Our class project also afforded the art students at Central High the opportunity to demonstrate their skills with a whimsical waterscape painting on the pump. Students who once couldn’t use the site now can hold outdoor classes and care for the site with tools our class purchased.

The program provided me with new leadership skills, a better understanding of how our governments work, a deeper understanding of my strengths and opportunities for personal growth, and best of all a lot of new friends.

To learn more about Leadership Morgan Hill or apply for the 2017 class program, visit www.leadershipmorganhill.org.

Dave Allen is a graduate of the 2016 Leadership Morgan Hill class.