By MELISSA HUTSELL
Business Journal writer
MANTECA — Leadership Stockton, an annual course offered by the Greater Stockton Chamber of Commerce, launched its 36th cohort this August.
Throughout the class, students learn leadership theory, participate in team building activities, and visit various state and regional institutions.
Building bonds with open-minded people who share a passion to improve their community is part of what inspired Stockton native TaShante McCoy-Ham to join Leadership Stockton. She wants to deliver, not just services, but hope.
“I love Stockton,” she said. “The goal is to create a positive light within our community. Especially on ours (because Stockton gets) a little bit of bad press. I know a lot of good people and businesses here.”
McCoy-Ham is the founder of the OWL Movement and Stockton Angel Mothers. She said team building exercises have been especially effective. The first team meeting included an obstacle course with activities such as sorting items blindfolded or balancing on a teeter totter.
“It took us out of our normal environment,” McCoy-Ham said. “We were strangers at that moment in time. After that, call us family.”
Leadership Stockton is the first continuous leadership organization of its type west of the Rockies, according to Program Director Timm Quinn, who was a member of the class of 2008.
In 1981, its 15 founding members decided to create the leadership program. The closest national program was in Denver, Colorado, so the group headed there to observe.
“They liked what they saw,” Quinn said. “But Leadership Denver got people involved in public office. (Leadership Stockton) wanted to focus on the community service aspect.”
Upon their return, the co-founders formed the West Coast’s inaugural leadership course, which focused on community involvement rather than political participation.
It has since become a model for others throughout California. Today, more than 800 participants have completed the program and countless Stocktonians benefit from its continual efforts.
The course gathers professionals from a diversity of fields, including law enforcement, health care, social services, education and business. From August until June, they come together once a month to work on a project aimed at benefiting the city they share.
“We look for people (who are ready to) get their hands dirty and get something done,” Quinn said. This is a cross-section of leaders from all communities, life experience, and age groups which range from those in their 20s to 60s. “(We help them) find leadership qualities in themselves.”
Leadership Stockton matches participants with the information and tools needed to make a collective impact.
Each September, participants choose a project or series of projects after assessing the needs of the city. Members create their plan of action and raise the funds and resources necessary. Previous ventures have included renovations of South Stockton’s McKinley Center, Emergency Food Bank, the Gospel Center Rescue Mission and the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless.
The class of 2016, which just ended, raised nearly $40,000 for its project PEACE, or Police Encouragement and Public Engagement. Part of that money paid for an exterior “face-lift” of the Stockton Police Department and sponsored an event for 100 school children and officers at Sky Zone Trampoline Park. To strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and the public, PEACE also released the documentary “Hearts of Blue.”
Trevor Womack, a second-generation Leadership Stockton graduate, 2011 alumni and a deputy chief with the Stockton Police Department, said his participation in the program was “significant” and helped advance his career. He said it strengthened his ability to serve the community in a way his formal education and training couldn’t do alone.
“(The course) teaches and applies leadership skills in a hands-on way right here within the community,” he said.
Womack, who is also an active Leadership Stockton Alumni Association board member, said that although he grew up in Stockton, the program opened his eyes, and established connections through the community project. It was the first time he and many other participants had ever taken on such an endeavor. The fundraising, planning, and coordination exponentially raised his level of his skillsets.
McCoy-Ham is looking forward to elevating her skills and understanding of the community as well.
“Leadership Stockton provides (us) with the knowledge needed to be connected to the community,” she said. “The more knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of the city that we possess, the more tools we have as leaders to implement growth and prosperity.”
Leadership Stockton Graduates have come from a variety of public and private businesses including (but not limited to):
Dorfman Pacific Co.
Stockton Shelter for the Homeless
California Society of CPAs
Central Valley Low Income Housing
San Joaquin Delta Community College
Health Plan of San Joaquin
Stockton Police Department