While the deadline to sign up for the city’s second Leadership Rohnert Park class approaches, participants from the inaugural program looked back on what they gained and their success in leadership since.
Rohnert Park has partnered with Coro Northern California — a national organization focused on leadership development — to offer their second free class, which asserts it will help participants grow their network and improve their knowledge, skills and confidence to be a community leader within the city.
Applications are due June 30 and can be found at rpcity.org.
Sessions will include trainers from Coro Northern California, instructing up to 24 participants in eight full-day classes and one half-day, starting on September 10, 2021 — and ending with a graduation ceremony on May 13, 2022.
Last year’s class saw participants land significant leadership roles within their community of Rohnert Park, including the city’s Vice Mayor Jackie Elward, who was elected to the city council at the end of 2020.
“I just wanted to learn more on the part of how the government here works because each city has their different little things that they do,” Elward said. “It gave me a bit more confidence to be the kind of leader that I wanted to be. And that was to listen a lot, to give people the platform. Because leadership is about listening, paying attention to the people you wanted to lead and to give them the platform to really teach you what you are trying to accomplish.”
Elward loved how hands-on the program was, and how it provided an in-depth look at the way the government operates. The class spent time at the Public Safety Department and down at city hall, looking at how specific jobs function.
Moreover, Elward made valuable connections.
“I met a lot of people here in our communities,” Elward said. “Meeting people was the thing for me because the one thing that Leadership Rohnert Park did for me was to create those relationships.”
The first class’s sessions started in the fall of 2019 in-person — but once the pandemic hit in March 2020, they were forced to move the last couple of sessions online.
Other participants from that inaugural session who went on to earn civic positions within the community included: Hugo Mata, for the Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation; Ann-Marie Rodriguez, on Rohnert Park’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee; Michael Thompson, on Rohnert Park’s Parks and Recreation Commission; and Fanny Lam, on Rohnert Park’s Planning Commission.
“The program is very honest about what issues the city is dealing with. And what areas are lacking attention,” Lam said.
Lam, who had lived in San Francisco for three years before moving to Rohnert Park in 2018, said she also joined the program to learn more about the city and how it operated. She found the connections she made have been crucial since earning her position on the planning commission.
“They live in different areas in Rohnert Park. So when I work on the planning commission, or when I need something that I don't understand in particular sections, I can call up a friend and ask, ‘What is it like there?’” Lam said. “And the other thing is, I learned how to work with a group with a lot of different opinions.”
One aspect Lam said she wished the program incorporated even more of was bringing city officials in to be interviewed.
“Those interviews are confidential. So the guest speakers are very honest about what they see, and we learned a lot,” she said.
According to their official website, Coro Northern California was founded in 1942 in San Francisco. It works with communities, schools, unions, governments and nonprofits to train, connect and support leaders. They claim to put an emphasis on self-awareness, critical thinking, communication, inclusion, collaboration and empowered professionalism.