FARMINGTON — A program designed to enhance leadership statewide celebrated the graduation of two local residents.

Leadership New Mexico announced the graduation of Amanda Aragon, statewide relations advisor for ConocoPhillips, and Nathan Deal, integrity management specialist for BP America Production Company. They were among 28 young professionals from around the state who recently graduated from the seventh Leadership New Mexico Connect New Mexico "The Next Generation of Leadership."

"It's really intended for up-and-coming young leaders to learn about the issues that face the state," said Patty Komko, president of Leadership New Mexico.

The program enlists various professionals from different educational backgrounds as students. Through the course of a year and three separate training weekends, the students learn about different issues in New Mexico and how it can impact their professions.

"We try to get people who work in oil and gas. We work with people in farming, ranching, health care. We really do try to get a broad spectrum," Komko said.

The three weekend sessions take place at different cities throughout the state and include speakers. In a recent session, Leadership New Mexico had Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera.

Komko said participants learn about how different issues in New Mexico can connect to each other.

"The whole idea is to take you out of your knowledge zone," Komko said.

Aragon said the most exciting part of the program was the different tours the group took.

She recalled the group's tour of the Leprino Cheese factory and the International Law Enforcement Academy, both outside of Roswell.

"I remember all the tours of these hidden gems," she said.

But most of all, she said with the diverse group, she remembers the people who cared about the future of New Mexico.

"That motivated me," she said, adding that the sense of pride "made me feel really good."

Leadership New Mexico is now accepting applications for the 2014-2015 Connect New Mexico Program "The Next Generation of Leadership." The deadline for applications is March 15. For an application or additional information visit www.leadershipnm.org or call (505) 241-4800.

Voice mails left for Deal seeking comment were not returned by press time.

Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638.and ezah@daily-times.com. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.