MUSCATINE — Leadership Muscatine celebrated its 31st year with the graduation of the 2018-2019 class Thursday evening at the Muscatine Art Center.

With 22 graduates from employers in Muscatine, this year’s group may end up being most about creating awareness and making sure they follow through on their seven projects that are under way.

The goal of Leadership Muscatine is to train leaders of all ages in Muscatine. “The original idea back in 1988 was just to develop people and individuals inthe community and help them become aware of all the value Muscatine has in all the different areas,” Alicia Bull, events coordinator at the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said. Leadership Muscatine is co-sponsored by the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Muscatine Community College. The program has had well over 600 graduates in its 31 years, Bull said.

The class takes place in 14 sessions over a nine-month period. “It’s just to help them prepare to be a better leader and to possibly stay here in Muscatine and contribute, whether they be on the city council or a county supervisor or whatever level,” Bull said. “It’s really just to kind of pique their interest and connect them with the right people so that they can continue giving back to our community.”

Graduation from the program requires a project, such as past ones on beautification, lighting of the Muscatine Bridge, developing the other side of the street at the soccer complex on Houser Street.

Various levels of projects happen. “It can get them out of their comfort zone a little bit,” Bull said. “It helps them with their networking tool, too.”

Projects this year included:

• Downtown Revitalization, which is trying to install downtown speakers on Second Street, so there can be music and announcements playing throughout the downtown. The goal is to have the speakers installed by 2020.

• Adult Mentoring, check in on people to visit, lend a hand, make sure they are taking meds and are doing OK.

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• Weed Park and Pavilion Project, to add a much-needed pavilion up the hill from the aquatic center, for parties and gatherings. The future leaders are working with the Muscatine Park and Recreation department, trying to make sure it aligns with its budget and plans.

• Windows on Muscatine, to fill open windows of empty businesses in downtown, by connecting with building owners to make the windows look cleaner and more pleasing. Rotating art, holiday exhibits, even advertisements of upcoming events could be used, Bull said. Some of that work is already done by area photographers, Bull acknowledged, but more can be done. 

• PechaKucha Muscatine Volume 2, which is like a Ted Talk event with a certain number of presenters having 20 seconds for 20 slides. “So they have to say what they really want really quick,” Bull said. “And get their point across.” Such an event is slated in Muscatine June 27 at the National Pearl Button Museum, Bull said.

• Hometown Turnaround, where a small-business task force goes around and tries to help small businesses to make sure they have all what they need, possibly breathing new life into the business, Bull said.

• Mental Health Awareness, to bring a program to Muscatine High School, to help prevent teen suicide. The goal includes bringing more awareness to the problem and getting something in place to help students and counselors by establishing a new program.

As for Leadership Muscatine, some of the participants are new to Muscatine and learn more about the city and area, too. “It’s not age driven at all,” Bull said. “It’s a great way to connect and see all the amazing things that Muscatine has to offer.”

Sign-ups for next year’s leadership group take place in August, and the program starts in September. Usually, various companies in town sponsor employees by paying their cost in the program.

Yes, many community chambers have such programs. It is very good Muscatine is one of them.

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