The regional leadership program Leadership North, launched in 2011 by the Zachary Chamber of Commerce with assistance from the Louisiana Department of Economic Development and LSU Agricultural Center, is now in its fifth year, and on Sept. 17, the program graduated its most recent group of participants.

At the graduation ceremony at The Pointe at Americana in Zachary, Bobby Soileau, of the LSU AgCenter, said the group learned about personality styles, met people in other communities and learned what their challenges are and listened to some great guest speakers throughout the six-month program.

Open to people living or working in Baker, Baton Rouge, Central, Zachary and communities in East and West Feliciana and Pointe Coupee parishes, the 2015 Leadership North participants included Liz Aaron, Highlands Bank; Becky Aucoin, Remax First; Tim Corcoran, real estate; Josh Detre, MedComp Sciences; Elain Ellerbe, Refined by Fire Ministries LLC; Jessica Ellis, Landmark Bank; Clint Gayle, Gayle Battery; Jen Gennaro, Tiger Town Realty; Mike Gennaro, Barndog Mill LLC; Twila Guerin, city of Zachary; Carter Leak, Bank of St. Francisville; Scott Masterson, city of Zachary; Jennifer Mounts, Regions Bank; Bettsie Norton, West Feliciana Parish; Theresa Payment, Lane Regional Medical Center Foundation; Bruce Pease, Georgia Pacific; Tanya Thigpen, Edward Jones; Shane Toncrey, Anvil Attachments; and Kristi Watson, Ozark Insurance Agency.

The guest speaker was Julie Laperouse, founder of Screaming Peacock, former director of talent development for the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and currently the director of training for Emergent Method, a firm specializing in public and media relations, strategic planning and communications, and digital and social communications, among other services.

As a former manager of a paper company in Jackson, Mississippi, Laperouse said she often drove Interstate 55 between Jackson and Baton Rouge.

“On the way, there’s a billboard that says, ‘Caskets. We deliver.’ What intrigues me about this sign is that if it had only listed the company’s name, would I have remembered it? Probably not,” Laperouse said. “I certainly would not have risked my life stopping on I-55 to take a photograph of the sign, nor would I have told dozens of people about it. But I tell you about the billboard because I want you to think about what’s on your billboard. What does your ‘sign’ say about you?

“What do people see when they see you or what do they tell others about you?” Laperouse asked. “How can that change with the program you just finished?”

She challenged the group to take everything they gleaned from Leadership North and do something with what they learned, encouraging the leaders to make an impact wherever they can and to start small at something, then if it’s successful, continue on to the next goal or step.

“You can never be the best at things you’re not good at,” Laperouse said. “Look for things that you’re good at and that you love. It’ll give you energy, not zap it.”

She said people are typically good problem spotters, not problem solvers.

“Now that you’ve graduated from Leadership North, will you be a problem solver? Will you be a part of changing something in your community that’s broken? Find a meeting or organization you can be a part of and make a difference,” Laperouse said.

Carla Sebille, an attorney from Slaughter who went on to found the Leadership North Alumni Association after graduating from the program in 2014, also spoke at the ceremony.

She challenged the group to remain involved in their communities by joining the organization, which looks for economic development projects throughout the region.

Members of LNAA have worked with students at BRCC in Jackson and founded the pilot Student Entrepreneur Program, or StEP, a youth entrepreneurial endeavor that saw success over the summer with several students from around the region.

Leadership North engages emerging leaders, prepares them to meet the future needs of their communities and strives to better develop, inform and encourage civic responsibility, Zachary Chamber Executive Director Kate MacArthur said.

Participants meet from March to September for mostly half-day sessions and a couple of full-day sessions.

Applications for the 2016 program are available at the Chamber of Commerce office in Zachary, 4633 Main St. Call (225) 654-6777 or email heather@zacharychamber.com for information.