Community leadership doesn’t always come naturally, but Leadership Stephenville continues to train those who want to take on that role and make a difference.

Leadership Stephenville’s new class — the Class of 2017 — had its orientation and ropes course Thursday, designed to get the 16 participants acquainted with the program and each other. This is the 19th class in the leadership program, which is sponsored by the Stephenville Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday’s instruction — the first of nine full-day sessions — was held at the Tarleton State University Challenge Course, just off West Lingleville Road.

“By creating a leadership pool for the present and the future, Leadership Stephenville is truly an investment in our community,” said July Danley, president/CEO of the Stephenville Chamber of Commerce.

Danley said the program “creates an awareness of community resources and needs, while enhancing existing leadership skills.” 

She said the mission of the program is to expand understanding of leadership, broaden knowledge of the local infrastructure, deepen the sense of quality in the community, and foster the responsibility of increased involvement in volunteer associations, neighborhoods and the overall community.

Danley, who participated in Leadership Stephenville in 2001, said the physical segment of Thursday’s session, involving rope climbing among other activities, would enable participants to grow closer through team building exercises.

She also noted that “many will challenge themselves to do something they didn’t think they could do.”

Shelby Slawson, owner of Slawson Roofing and Slawson Law, said she always enjoys tackling challenges.

“I want to better understand how various groups in our community work together, where our needs are and how we can grow to meet those needs,” said Slawson, a 1995 Stephenville High School graduate who attended TSU and completed law school at the University of Texas.

Curt Norman, rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Stephenville, said of the challenges in the ropes portion Thursday afternoon, “The objective is to work as a team. What a group could accomplish would be different than one person’s maximum potential.”

Also among those participating in the current leadership class are Dr. Jordan Barkley, dean of TSU’s College of Education; Dr. Laura Boren, TSU’s vice president for student life; and Noah Cullis, director of planning and building services for the city of Stephenville.

Future sessions for the new class will focus on topics such as industry, city/county government, education, health care, agriculture, transportation, communication and quality of life.