Which LIA program(s) have you participated in?
Leadership Lafayette Class XXXI
Briefly describe your life as a leader before LIA.
Prior to Leadership, I served as the chair of the Mayor-President’s Awareness Committee for Citizens with Disabilities under the Robideaux administration. That position was voluntary one and was the result of my efforts to bring accessibility issues to the forefront of Lafayette citizens and local government officials. As a result of my efforts. I began the position I hold now shortly before I began my experience with LIA.
How did you hear about LIA and/or its programs?
I had a lot of friends who went through the program and recommended it to me. There was a definite reputation of being a great program to participate in.
What made you want to participate in an LIA program?
Like I said it came very highly recommended, but more than that I viewed it as a real opportunity to learn from others, grow with them and also hopefully show them what it is like to live with a disability.
What were you hoping to learn and/or gain from the experience?
Honestly, at first I thought I wasn’t going to get much out of it. I considered myself to be pretty well connected within Lafayette given the fact that I was super involved in the community and having lived here for over twenty years. Having said that, I’ve never been happier to be wrong about something.
What were you most nervous about prior to participating?
There were two main things really, the first was how I would be perceived given that I use a wheelchair — anytime I meet new people that is a natural concern. I was also worried about the fact that I was a recipient of a scholarship. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to participate, no question. When I shared that fact with my class, I wasn’t thought of as less, but rather, met with understanding. This, for me, was a major relief, and I was able to move forward with my experience.
What was your favorite part of the experience?
Throughout Leadership, I was able to meet such a wide variety of some of the brightest minds the city has to offer both in terms of organizers and presenters, but also in my classmates. When I went through the program I was 29, and the most senior member of our class was in his early sixties. We would have never organically connected and he quickly became one of my favorite and most respected classmates and friends. Outside of that, it’s astonishing to me that you can get a group of thirty two people who start out as near or complete strangers and turn them into a second family in a few short months. We still socialize (not as often as we’d like) and we still communicate when we can. Having such a profound shared experience will always connect us- and I think that is a really cool thing.
What surprised you the most about your experience?
There were days when the class was on the same page, and there were days when we were incredibly divided on certain topics or themes. This can no doubt be jarring at the time, but that speaks to the passion of all of your classmates. If you learn to embrace different points of view—as cheesy as this may sound—that is how you grow and that is, at least for me, what is at the core of Leadership Lafayette.
What has been your greatest or most rewarding achievement since your experience with LIA?
As a class, I would have to say pulling funds to sponsor a bus stop shelter. I think that kind of comradery and community spirit is rare to find these days, especially with thirty-two people who began largely as strangers. For me, personally, I would have to say doing things like this or serving on the planning committee board. Any opportunity I have to give back to a program that has given me so much I take, as often as possible.
Who do you think would benefit from the program and why?
I would say anyone wanting to better understand how the city runs should participate. The program coordinators do an excellent job of coming up with engaging and often thought-provoking content that covers a variety of key components of the city.
Is there any advice you’d like to give future participants?
Come in with an open mind. Over the course of the program, your perception of Lafayette and the people who call it home will change. It’s designed to challenge you in the best ways and it will. Also, speaking from experience, if you don’t get accepted your first year, REAPPLY. It took me two tries to get accepted and looking back, it worked out better for me as I was in a better space within my career the second time around. Don’t take the rejection personally, it is absolutely worth the wait!!!
Any feedback and/or ideas for how you’d like to see LIA or its programs grow in the future?
Keep growing the program and welcoming new ideas and experiences, LIA does an excellent job of this now, but never settle simply for what worked before—this is how your members and participants will continue to learn and evolve.
Anything else you’d like to comment on or say about LIA?
If you allow it to, this program can change your life. It did for me, and it is my sincere hope that this has helped potential members, current members and even past members realize how special something like LIA is even in a community as unique as Lafayette.