Walnut Grove High School in Loganville, Georgia, was honored by UGA with the 2020 Innovations in Community Leadership Award for its success in implementing a leadership curriculum that has led to higher graduation rates and greater student engagement.

The award was presented to Walnut Grove High School Principal Sean Callahan by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development during the institute’s annual Community Leadership Conference Feb. 5.

Walnut Grove began implementing the Youth Leadership in Action curriculum, developed by Fanning, in 2015. The school’s graduation rates increased from 78.3 percent in 2013-14 to 93.6 percent in 2018-19. The state average is 82 percent.

“I think this approach and our partnership with the Fanning Institute not only gives students a voice and makes Walnut Grove High School a better place, it builds a legacy that will continue for Walnut Grove for years to come,” Callahan said in accepting the award. “This is a real honor for our school. This project is a school commitment to our students and our community as well.”

The Innovations in Community Leadership Award recognizes individuals or programs that have moved beyond traditional community leadership programming through innovative practices, partnerships and activities that better serve participants and their communities.

Also during the conference, Fanning Institute Director Matt Bishop announced a new Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative (ICLI), that will provide resources to underserved communities and organizations across Georgia that aspire to begin, restart or revamp a leadership program.

“Communities that provide leadership development opportunities for its citizens, across all ages, have a competitive advantage in attracting investment and opportunities for the community,” Bishop said. “Recognizing the correlation between leadership development and economic vitality, this initiative will help communities and organizations leverage the Fanning Institute’s leadership development expertise to create and implement solutions to community challenges.”

Projects the ICLI could support include community-focused, skills-based programming that focuses on community and civic engagement; leadership development for underserved populations within a community; programming that enhances workforce vitality; leadership programs that enhance student opportunities and leadership skills; entrepreneurial leadership development; or multi-county, regional leadership development programming.

This year’s conference, “Together. Serve. Transform.” drew about 120 people to Athens to participate in workshops and panel discussions on innovations, research and best practices in adult, youth and nonprofit leadership.

“This is my third time attending the Community Leadership Conference, and it was a great experience,” said Tommie Beth Willis, president of the Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce. “The breakout sessions were right on point with what I needed professionally and what our community needed for our leadership program.”

For more information in the ICLI, including deadlines for application, go to www.fanning.uga.edu/ICLI.

Writer: Charlie Bauder, charlie.bauder@fanning.uga.edu, 706-542-7039

Contact: Matt Bishop, mlbishop@uga.edu, 706-542-6201