The next generation: Concordia Parish program aims to mentor area’s emerging leaders

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 5, 2016

NATCHEZ — A new program for young adults is emerging in Concordia Parish, and with it, a group of people who hope to become the next generation of community leaders.

Beaux Pilgrim, director of the Concordia Chamber of Commerce’s Emerging Leaders, said he hopes the program will educate young professionals.

The parish’s first crop of eight participants began the program in February.

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Eight is a fair size for the class, Pilgrim said. Four current participants are from Ferriday, and four are from Vidalia.

“The idea behind it is to take a group of young adults that are probably going to be the next generation of leaders in the community and try to help them to get a better understanding of the community they live in, to see the different aspects of the community,” Pilgrim said.

To do that, the class meets once a month to tour a site in a different segment of the community — that includes media, local government, healthcare, industry, and more.

The sites are decided on by the students themselves at their first meeting, and each pair of students is responsible for arranging the visits for the entire class.

Tance Hughes, 25, said his participation has been very informative, especially the group’s May outing to Riverland Medical Center and Riverpark Medical Center.

“We learned what services they offered and kind of what their plans were for the future,” Hughes said. “We talked to all the medical professionals at those facilities to get a better idea of what services are offered and what we can do to help them.”

Hughes and his partner, the group’s student president, Brian Chandler, had the responsibility of preparing and leading the health care visits.

Research, networking, and a lot of preparation was involved, Hughes said.

“We all, to an extent, took areas that we are not necessarily familiar with,” he said. “I’m more interested in business and local government; medical is something I don’t know much about. It was good for me to be forced to dive in and study and become more informed. The point of that was to help us in our weak areas.”

Hughes, who works at his family’s Vidalia-based home décor business, Southern Designs, said the experience has helped him both professionally and personally.

“I’m meeting local leaders and I know who to ask questions, who can guide me in the right direction,” Hughes said. “I think that helps a lot professionally. Personally, I’m learning more about the community.”

This year’s Emerging Leaders will complete the program in November, and it will start again next February with a new group of young professionals.

For Pilgrim, the success of the program lies in its ability to perpetuate its student-driven nature.

“I mentor them to some degree, but really they are the driving force behind it,” he said. “This class will take next year’s class, and a couple from this class will take over the position of what I’m doing this year. Directing them, steering them, monitoring them through the year. So it puts a perpetuation into it.”