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It was an evening of reminiscing and reflecting on the fun times had by members of Class XVI of Leadership Duncan Tuesday evening, as they gathered for their graduation ceremony.
The graduating class of 30 students mingled with members of the community at the Duncan Golf and Tennis Club, celebrating the completion of nine one-day sessions in multiple areas of leadership skills.
Several speakers spoke through out the program, including steering committee chairman Bill Gossett — who guided the event as master of ceremonies — as well as graduating students Jay Johnson and Curtis Thornton, before keynote speaker Ed Apple took the stage.
As Johnson took the stage to speak about his reflections from the class, he paused momentarily to turn his back to the crowd and jokingly affix a “Clark Southard State Senate” sticker to his suit. Southard, another of the graduates, received similar ribbing from Thornton when it was his turn to speak.
“He told me wasn’t going to campaign tonight, so I told him I would wear a billboard,” Johnson said.
Johnson expanded on an idea presented by Gossett earlier in the evening — that the graduating class comes from a number of backgrounds and, he said, they found strength in their diversity.
Johnson shared with the crowd how the group learned to trust each other — despite occasional disagreements — leading them to sponsor the History of Duncan lecture series by former mayor and historian Phil Leonard. The series came from their desire to hear more about what Leonard had to teach about the community.
When Thornton stepped up to the microphone, he reflected on how the group came to work together on their multiple class projects, preparing plans and raising nearly $20,000 to re-fence a section of Fuqua Park, including the Leroy Tucker Kiwanis Club Kiddieland.
Thornton shared about how the graduating class visited Gabriel’s House on a tour, providing them with the idea to raise money to replace one of the playgrounds at one of their locations.
“We did get enough money to replace one of (the playgrounds),” Thornton said before presenting Bonnie Talley, Gabriel’s House founder and program director, with a homemade oversized check for $1,000.
Apple followed Thornton and conveyed to the graduating class the importance of sharing the leadership skills they learned. He instructed them to take those skills into the community, to share them with everyone. Reflecting on participating in the first Leadership Duncan class, Apple declared he would have re-named the program.
“I would call it Public Service Training; that’s what you are really doing,” Apple said. “You are learning to expand your involvement in the community by learning about the various aspects of it.”
Before the presentation of awards to each member of the class, they were treated to a sideshow presentation of what they had been expected to learn from the classes about leadership and team-building skills.