Make a Difference! Leadership Academy graduates virtual class

“Because of what I learned about my personal leadership style, I understand that if I make adjustments to how I deal with people I can possible bring change in my community.”

Two Magnolia Project participants graduated from the Make a Difference! Leadership Academy on February 3, 2021, the first virtual class to complete the program. The Leadership Academy has been an initiative of the Magnolia Project and the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition since 2011.

The two graduates, Monica Brown and LaRhonda Jones, started in October 2020 and were able to work through challenges to continue attending classes. They worked on a Community Action Plan, “Building a Bridge For a Better Community.” A food desert was created in their community after the closure of a vital corner store that was the closest place where people could buy vegetables, meats and other staples. People struggled to find rides to a grocery store miles away. The participants saw a way to be a bridge in the community by becoming a bridge that brings resources into the community, for the community and at no cost to the community.

The goal of the Leadership Academy is to support the efforts of local residents to make changes in neighborhood factors that contribute to disparities in health and birth outcomes. The 16-week course teaches skills like public speaking and advocating for the needs of themselves, their families and the community.

“We have elected officials who are in place to be a voice for us. We as citizens have a right to expect the elected officials to speak up for us when we come to them with our concerns.”

For more information about the Make a Difference! Leadership Academy, please contact Juarlyn Smith at