Photos courtesy of San Juan CollegeMembers of the 2012 Leadership San Juan class participate in a team-building exercise during a retreat earlier this
Photos courtesy of San Juan College Members of the 2012 Leadership San Juan class participate in a team-building exercise during a retreat earlier this year.
FARMINGTON — This year's Leadership San Juan class has begun, with members attending their first monthly session at the San Juan Regional Medical Center.

The group's first session, held last week, focused on health and human services resources in San Juan County.

This year's class of 29 listened to presentations by representatives from organizations such as Connelly Hospitality House, which provides support and housing near the hospital for the families of patients dealing with cancer and traumatic injuries.

Leadership San Juan, which has had more than 500 participants, is beginning its 24th year of educating current and future community leaders. It was founded by former San Juan College President James Henderson, Marjorie Black, Nancy Shepherd and Joyce Donald. LSJ is one of 2,000 leadership programs across the country, and is geared toward giving participants a better understanding of the county and its systems so they can make informed decisions about their communities.

Class members attend nine daylong sessions throughout the year, learning about different sectors of the community including business, education, criminal justice, the media and government. The class breaks up into smaller groups to complete three community-improvement projects. Projects from prior years have included construction of a rope obstacle course at the juvenile facility, a room for teenagers at Salvation Army, a dental clinic for underserved children, and a career-preparedness class for high school students.


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During last week's initial class, San Juan Partnership's Pamela Drake provided the group with an overview of health and human-services-related task forces within the county, such as the Community Health Counsel and the Local Collaborative 11, which meets monthly to assess the community's needs for mental health and addiction services, and informs state-level decision makers about where to channel funding.

"When we talk about health, we're not just talking about health care, but also about the overall health of the community," Drake said. "This includes housing, employment, education, child care, and other factors that make a community healthy."

Drake said one of the primary goals of these task forces is to identify resources in the community, and to improve access to them.

"We have a lot of resources, but many times people don't know about them," she said, adding that the agency is putting together a survey to see how much the community knows about available resources.

The LSJ members were also given a tour of Totah Behavioral Health Authority by program and clinical administrator Kristine Carlson. TBHA provides alcohol and drug abuse treatment that integrates traditional Native American healing practices. Carlson showed the group the on-site sweat lodge and traditional Hogan used for ceremonies.

Next month, the class will meet at Piedra Vista High School for "Education Day" and will receive overviews of educational programs and issues affecting education in the county.

Nancy Shepherd, San Juan College's presidential adviser for community relations, said LSJ has evolved through the years by integrating new ideas and individuals into the program.

"Leadership has become more structured in purpose and organization," she said. "And we now have Liesl Dees as curriculum chair, which is just fantastic."

Dees, who is director of the college's Community Learning Center, said the program asks outgoing LSJ students for feedback on the program and integrates their suggestions.

"We've also really strengthened our focus on servant leadership, a philosophy that emphasizes leading by serving," she said.

This year's class members, who represent a cross-section of professionals from such fields as business, education, health care, and law enforcement, are: Stacey Allen, Clete Berens, Keith Bishop, Yanabah Bluehouse, Cari Drake, Teresa Emrich, Neilson Francisco, Ryan Frost, Rodolfo Garcia, Joseph Gonzales, Katie Harris, Larry Hathaway, Lisa Haws, Adam Hewett, Michael Jakino, Debbie Joslin, Denise McCracken, Jeff Mitchell, Dylan O'Reilly, Toni Pendergrass, Roberta Rogers, Jack Silago, Dawnitta Taft, Cody Waldroup, Rodney Warner, Denise Williams, Annie Willmon, Audra Winters, and Shar Yazzie.

Applicants for next year's LSJ class are now being accepted. Those chosen for the program attend a weekend retreat, as well as the one-day-a-month class sessions. The program runs from August to May.

For more information on Leadership San Juan, visit the college's website at www.sanjuancollege.edu , or call 505-566-3461.