Leadership San Juan seeks applicants for new class

Organization has produced 700 graduates since 1990

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The organization was founded by James Henderson, Marjorie Black and Nancy Shepherd.
  • It welcomed its first class in the fall of 1989.
  • Each class typically consists of 25 to 30 people.
Members of the Leadership San Juan 2019-2020 class take part in a group exercise during a retreat before beginning their training.

FARMINGTON — Leadership San Juan is accepting applications through May 15 for its new class, which will begin this fall.

The organization, which now boasts 700 graduates, is one of 2,000 such leadership groups around the country. It focuses on identifying, enlightening and encouraging emerging leaders of diverse backgrounds, occupations and cultures for the purpose of enhancing the quality of life in the Four Corners, according to a press release.

The organization was founded by James Henderson, Marjorie Black and Nancy Shepherd, and welcomed its first class in the fall of 1989. Those participants graduated in May of 1990.

Shepherd said Henderson, the late president of San Juan College, presented the idea for the organization to Black and Shepherd after seeing the same handful of people serving in leadership positions across the community. He believed the new organization could broaden that leadership base, something that would benefit the entire county.

Now, 32 years later, Shepherd said there's no question Leadership San Juan has accomplished that goal.

"Absolutely," she said. "There's a lot of nurturing (of new leaders) that goes on. Just knowing more people in the community and knowing about their jobs and learning their perspectives — that's exactly what we're trying to achieve."

Shepherd said a typical Leadership San Juan Class consists of 25 to 30 people, although a small number of folks tend to drop out over the course of a year because they relocate to have other disruptions to their personal lives.

"We're very strict on attendance," she said. "The board believes you need to be there for each class."

Members of the 2018-19 Leadership San Juan class pose for a group photo during a class on government.

Organizers try to cast a wide demographic net when it comes to selecting a new class each year, she said, explaining they look for a mix of genders, ages, occupations and hometowns. Typically, the number of applicants slightly exceeds the number of people accepted for a class, although Shepherd said there were 52 applicants one year.

"We had a lot of disappointed people that year," she said.

Shepherd acknowledged that Leadership San Juan asks a lot of its members, but she said those who graduate from the program get much more in return.

"It is a huge time commitment," she said. "And people often come into it a little reluctant. But almost always come out of it extremely appreciative of the things they've learned and the connections they've made."

Classes will focus on such sectors of the community as education, business, media, criminal justice, health and human services, government and a final summary day, according to the press release.

Class members also will be expected to complete three projects that benefit the county. In the past, those projects have included construction of a low ropes course, development of a dental clinic for underserved children and a career fair at Rocinante High School.

Tuition for the program is $750 and includes all costs for a retreat and meals. There are scholarships available.

Shepherd said Leadership San Juan stresses the idea of service above all other elements, pointing to the teachings of the late Robert Greenleaf, who is credited with articulating the ideals behind servant leadership.

"To be a leader, you have to be a servant first," she said.

Shepherd said the group has a large and active alumni association that helps fund scholarships for new members. Those alums also are called upon to mentor and train those coming behind them.

The program is resuming this year after it did not organize a 2020-21 class because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shepherd said that was the only year the organization has missed since its inception.

Applications can be found at sanjuancollege.edu/community/leadership-san-juan/.

Orientation for the new class will be held on Aug. 21, and a retreat is planned Sept. 10-12. Sessions are held on the second Friday of each month from October through April. The new class will graduate on May 6, 2022.

For more information, email Black at mwblack@earthlink.net or Shepherd at nancykshepherd@gmail.com.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.