If you look around at who sits on community boards, runs for office and steps up when leaders are needed, chances are most of them have gone through the Baton Rouge Area Chamber's Leadership Program. Started in 1985, the program's goal is to prepare a diverse group of professionals to serve in leadership positions throughout the community by providing them with practical information on community issues. The program also seeks to establish a communication network between existing and emerging leaders.
The latest group of these rising leaders was introduced at a breakfast Aug. 8 at the Crowne Plaza. From there, they headed to a two-day retreat that jump-starts nine months of training to enlighten them on the Baton Rouge area's issues, such as education, diversity, health care, economic development, the arts and the criminal justice system. The program is led by Emily Stich.
The Class of 2018 includes Matthew Adams, Pranjal Banthia, Melissa Bezet, Brittni Blankenship, Franz Borghardt, Eric Borne, Jeffrey Boykin, Bridgett Coleman, Eugene Collins, Tokesha Collins-Wright, Melissa Kay Curtis, Lynda Daigle, Karmen Davis, Corey Dinkel, Kyle Finke, Heather Folks-Givens, Hien Fontenot, Ryan Gisclair, Nathalie Godfrey, Melissa Grand, Michelle Hardy, Timothy Johnson, Theresa Jones, Brandy Kelly, Megan Kelly, Sara Kleinpeter, Emily Kline, William Lampton, Eric Landry, Christen Losey-Gregg, Heather Maturin, Jeff Mosely, William Mulina, Kenny Nguyen, Adrian Owen, Marie Powell, Erik Showalter, Kimberly Tang, Frederik Thomas, Melissa Thompson, George Town, Dawn Vick and Chloé Wiley.
Speaking of leaders, Edwin Washington Edwards, the man who served as Louisiana's governor longer than anyone else, celebrated his 90th birthday with a sold-out crowd of family and friends at the Renaissance Hotel on Aug. 12. Among the well-wishers were Gov. John Bel Edwards and wife Donna, and state Senate President John Alario Jr. They joined wife Trina and 4-year-old son Eli Edwards in singing "Happy Birthday." Eli also supplied some pointers on how to blow out the giant candle.
I missed the Edwards' birthday and a few other parties because I had a date with some childhood friends back home in Alabama. After much procrastination, we finally had the reunion of the Hill 'n' Dale neighborhood kids. And, while not everyone was able to make it, we had a pretty good turn out, including my mom, who is the last surviving parent. To make it even more fun, sister Sally, who hosted the soirée, expanded the guest list to include some longtime family friends, some cousins and two of our mom's best friends from childhood. It was a night we'll cherish forever!