S.D. Farmers Union Provides Professional Leadership Training Through REAL Program
– By SDFU Foundation
For Angela Hawkinson, the investment her community of Britton, South Dakota, made in her, has had a large impact on her life. She credits Britton with helping shape her into the person that she is today.
"I was raised in my community and now I live in it and have built my life here," explains Hawkinson, who works in human resources and bookkeeping for Full Circle Ag. "This community has given me so much and I'm proud of this place. Now I feel like it's my turn to give back to it and invest in its future like it did in mine."
To help her invest in her rural community, Hawkinson is furthering her leadership skills through the professional development program, Rural Economic and Leadership Development (REAL) program. Developed by South Dakota Farmers Union, REAL is designed to encourage and support rural professionals, like Hawkinson, by providing them with professional and leadership development.
"By finding ways to advance my professional knowledge I'm able to give back more to the leadership roles I hold in my community and I'll be ahead of the game when it comes to my job," says Hawkinson.
The REAL program connects rural professionals with experts, participants work on media and promotion, parliamentary procedure, communication skills, having difficult conversations and other programming and networking opportunities through a series of seminars.
"This program is about training the next generation of leaders and those who are already in leadership positions through various placements within their communities," explains Rachel Haigh-Blume, South Dakota Farmers Union Education Director. "Participants learn how to work with boards and make difficult decisions that impact their communities. The most important aspect of REAL is creating a network of individuals to bounce some ideas off of. It's helpful to get some outside input. In small towns there are difficult conversations every day when it comes to decisions. REAL participants are given the skills to have these conversations without impacting relationships with neighbors."
Enhancing her leadership and communication skills was the reason Kristi Leisinger, Crooks, took the time away from her healthcare business, Copperleaf Consulting Group.
"Besides working in my healthcare career, my family and I volunteered about 300 hours last year to local non-profit organizations," says Leisinger. "Opportunities like this help remind me of how to be a good communicator and leader when working with teams. The best impact I'll take out of this is learning to be a better board member and learning to put myself in my teammates' shoes."
Hawkinson and Leisinger are among a group of South Dakotans from various rural communities to participate in the 2018 REAL program.
REAL participants recently completed their last session, held in Watertown. The 2018 series of REAL sessions focused on personal motivation, leadership strategy, goal achievement and community growth.