Jul 12, 2007

Decision to embrace Coulter stains community asset

A Livingston County community asset has recently taken a beating across the state, and rightly so, for its shortsighted and awful decision to embrace and endorse the hate speech and discrimination of hatemonger Ann Coulter by paying her $30,000 for a 90 minute rant.

But the truth is Cleary University is an excellent school, and it truly is a community asset. Hopefully, the leadership at the school will come to its senses before Oct. 1 and be a leader again. One Cleary program that has greatly benefited the community is holding a breakfast next week for anyone interested in participating in the program. Leadership Livingston has inspired community leaders for 14 years, and the movers and shakers of the community are among its graduates.

Leadership Livingston was formed as a partnership in 1992 between the school and the chambers of commerce in Brighton and Howell. Its many goals include identify existing and emerging leaders and to expand the number of informed, civic-oriented volunteer leaders; to provide information on community resources; to challenge participants to increase their knowledge and become actively involved in problem-solving in the community; to develop a core of individuals who will serve the county as a source for informed, motivated project leaders and to have an immediate positive effect on the participants, their organizations, and the community.

One a week from September through May the group of about 20 diverse people from the community in the program meet to learn about a particular area of the community, such as the local judicial system, state and local government, schools and human service agencies. Where LL has had its biggest positive effect on the community has been through its required community service project.

The class is divided into small groups of four to five people, and they choose a project to benefit the community that no one in the group has a background with, In other words, a person who works in the judicial system could not work on a project to benefit juvenile delinquents. He group must work on the project outside their normal meeting time.

The project I think that has had the biggest present and future positive effect – and the one I came in very close contact with – was the project to establish a YMCA in Livingston County.

The quest to bring a YMCA to Livingston Country – the largest not-for-profit service organization in the U.S. - began in October 2000 when a group of five people from the 2000 class of Leadership Livingston chose to conduct a feasibility study to see if there was interest in establishing a YMCA here. There was a groundswell of support.

The original group from LL stayed together after the program was over and held community meetings to gauge interest in bringing a YMCA to the county in July 2001, and the support was overwhelming. In October 2001 the YMCA of the USA conducted face-to-face interviews with 45 community, business and religious leaders in the county. That also revealed overwhelming interest.

The group eventually evolved to the YMCA Founding Committee, and organizers formed several study committees and then formed a board of directors. In 2003 the board decided to affiliate with the Metro Detroit YMCA instead of forming an independent YMCA. The Livingston County Family YMCA Founders Fundraising Campaign began in January of 2006 and continues. The YMCA requires three years of programs before it will allow any fundraising for a building, and programs have been underway for the last two years at various locations, mostly at Cleary. The executive director of the Livingston County Family YMCA - Dawn Palmer-Van Camp – was a member of that LL class back in 2000 as well as a former employee at Cleary.

An informal “Prospective Applicant Breakfast” for individuals interested in participating in the 2007-08 Leadership Livingston program is being held Tuesday, July 17 from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at Cleary University in Genoa Township, 3750 Cleary Drive. Anyone interested in attending the breakfast, please RSVP to Program Director Janet Filip at 517.548.3670, ext. 2228 or via e-mail at: jfilip@cleary.edu.

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