The inaugural class of the Lynda Brannen Williamson Foundation Women’s Leadership Academy graduated on May 3, receiving certificates and gifts to mark the end of the program.
The Statesboro-based foundation, in partnership with the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, established the program to encourage and prepare women to take leadership roles in Southeast Georgia.
“I hope other communities will emulate this program and pay it forward,” said Jennifer Frum, UGA vice president for public service and outreach, who delivered the graduation address. “We need more women across Georgia who can mentor other women and do everything in their power to ensure that the young women around us become the next generation of great leaders.”
Williamson established the foundation before her death in November 2014 “to give young women guidance, mentorship, and a path by which to maximize their potential, professionally and personally.” The ceremony honored her passion for community leadership and legacy of service as each participant was celebrated for her current contributions and future impact.
“Lynda’s legacy and vision will live on through these graduates,” said leadership academy participant Sally Scott, regional development director for the Georgia Southern University Athletic Foundation.
Fanning faculty members Maritza Soto Keen and Carolina Darbisi designed the leadership program, which took place over eight sessions and included women from Bulloch, Candler and Screven counties.
The 16 women explored their individual leadership styles, career development, work-life balance, and learned tools for effective leadership. Participants met with prominent state leaders and received a legislative proclamation honoring Williamson and the foundation. In April they attended the Public Service and Outreach Annual Awards Lunch, where they were honored with a Four for the Future award presented by Georgia Trend magazine and the University of Georgia to recognize partnerships that show collaboration, leadership and innovation and contribute to long-term community benefits.
“This experience helped me to find my voice,” said Ty White Johnson, counseling and retention coordinator at Ogeechee Technical College. “I will never lose it again.”
The experience forged a strong bond among the participants, who presented a check for $1,700 to the foundation and announced they would launch an annual career day for area women that would include a professional makeover, assistance with interview skills and resumé development.
“I can’t wait to see what is in store for next year,” said Lisa Lee, LBW Foundation board president. The foundation already is planning for its second class, which will include women from more counties near Statesboro.