Hope is clearly on the Alta "Horizon."
A large, diverse group of residents, concerned about the future of their community, have completed the nine-week leadership training course, Horizons Community Leadership Program to Reduce Poverty. Only 24 other communities in the state have taken part in this unique program. Iowa State University Extension has been delivering the Horizons program with funding from Northwest Area Foundation out of St. Paul, Minn.
Communities with a population of 500-5,000 exhibiting a 10 percent poverty rate, may apply to be part of the program; 85 communities applied and met the criteria but only a handful were selected.
Though nine weeks of gathering information is up, the program will move into two more phases with hopes that changes within Alta will follow.
Ruth Freeman of Jefferson, an ISU Extension Specialist, was on hand to help the group celebrate the completion of their nine-week, 30-hours of training, and was impressed with the residents that shared their time.
"It's exciting to see people grow and make informed decisions on improving their communities," she commented.
The topics discussed over the last two months include:
* Finding leaders within the community
* Identifying community assets
* Management ideas for bringing results
* Making meetings work
* Managing conflicts
* Building partnerships
* Moving from talk to action
* Communication for change
While the program helps communities take charge and build stronger leaders to address poverty and economic decline, the information helps build better leaders for other projects they may be involved in.
Randy and Nancy Robbins have been members of Horizons; they are also members of the Buena Vista County Fair Board. Leadership strength is important. Alta City Council member Bruce Frederick has also devoted his time to becoming a better leader and will use the information in many other facets.
"We know what needs to be done but it's tough to get cooperation," Frederick said. "We've got one of the best communities around and we work well on most projects," he added, giving the playground, the ball complex and the schools as strong examples of how people have worked together to make dreams become realities. "The only thing lacking now is viable plans for the future..." And the next phase, will help the group in that area.
The leadership training has taught the participants skills on how to communicate better and how to work together with people.
Ofelia Valdez is the youngest member of the group and has been a strong member of the group. Kris Shannon, new to the community, has had the opportunity to get to know new people.
"We've all got a broader sense of the community and what the ideal picture looks like," she said.
Frederick added, "I hope the participants are able to buy into the information and knowledge and glean from these nine meetings. This program forces us to be involved. We've all looked at these issues and have thought they were too big for just me. Every one of these people lives in this community and we all have the sam objectives - we all want Alta to be better. We see life's problems. The solutions can be difficult but we can effectively change the future and make things better."
The next phase is to "Vision" what the community would look like with less poverty and the phase following will be to come up with a plan. The toughest work will then occur - to put all their action to work.
"Something is going to change," Frederick said. "We've become involved and if we continue to work together, there will be progress. We've all grown from this experience but there is a lot more to do."