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The El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce’s ninth Leadership Union County (U-Lead) class is starting soon, and the deadline for applications is this Friday.

The 10-month program was designed to help identify and develop leaders from local industries and the community-at-large. Kaitlyn Rigdon, marketing and communications coordinator for the Chamber, said it has also proved helpful in teaching those that are new in town about the community.

“They’re learning about ways they can get involved in the community and different things that our community does provide here,” she said.

The class meets once a month, on the third Wednesday, and each session typically lasts a full day. Each session will typically revolve around a specific topic, and those in the class will travel to agencies or companies related to that topic for a tour or to hear from special speakers.

For example, last July, U-Lead Class VIII focused their monthly session on healthcare. They toured the Medical Center of South Arkansas and the South Arkansas Medical Association, learning from healthcare professionals what challenges they face and what resources they can provide.

“It’s really jam-packed full of either speakers or tours of places,” Rigdon said. “We really want to focus on getting speakers this year that can talk about leadership and their experience with it wherever they work.”

Rigdon, who will join this year’s U-Lead class as a member, said other topics this year will include local nonprofits, city and county government and law enforcement and education, among others.

Each class also works to complete a project; for example, U-Lead Class VII installed a playhouse for children at the Turning Point domestic violence shelter, and Class VIII devised an accountability plan to ensure all class members continue to volunteer now that they’ve graduated from the program.

“Talking to the participants last year and hearing how much they enjoyed it and learned from it, I was really interested,” Rigdon said. “They gave really positive feedback.”

So far, the Chamber has received 11 applications. Typically, each class has about 15 to 20 members, Rigdon said, but there is no maximum capacity for the class.

“I think anybody who is in a leadership position at any job would benefit from this,” Rigdon said. “People new to town find it very beneficial, anybody who wants to get involved with the community to learn about the different things that are going on – but anybody really can learn from this class.”

It costs $750 to participate in the U-Lead program. Rigdon said class members’ employers often pay their tuition. To get an application or learn more, visit goeldorado.com/chamber/leadership-union-county or visit the Chamber, which is located at 111 W. Main St.

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or [email protected]

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