Leadership and community development are at the core of what Jason Headrick, an assistant professor in agricultural leadership at Texas Tech University, teaches every day in his classroom. Since joining the faculty in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications in 2020, Headrick has been eager to find new and engaging ways for students to make an impact on the local community. The Helen Jones foundations provided him with an opportunity to do just that.
“The mission of The Helen Jones is to significantly improve human services and cultural and educational opportunities for the residents of the South Plains of Texas,” said Headrick.
Using funds from the grant, Headrick created the Civic Leadership Academy, whose goal is to give back to Lubbock and surrounding communities through understanding the connections between local government, nonprofits, and the people across communities. They will be meeting with a variety of groups and even meeting with the mayor soon to discuss some opportunities.
Headrick, whose research focuses on leadership education and the access around it, said he wanted to “Involve the students he is teaching in a lifelong experience.”
The program simply started from a few emails about the Helen Jones grant and Dr. Headrick talking to some Davis college classes about his ideas. The application process for CLA is simple: just a few short questions about one’s leadership experience and community service. Over forty applications were turned in for the first ever CLA group, out of all the applications they selected twelve students.
“CLA is an opportunity to show the value of engaging in your community, basically understanding how to do it, seeing that one person can make a difference and one person can have a really big impact if they have the proper tools to go about that change. One must understand the steps to make that first snowflake into a snowman,” Headrick said.
Going into the first year of CLA no one was quite sure what to expect but they all took off running with goals in mind.
“Some of my goals for CLA are to set a foundation, being the guinea pig group, we are trying to figure out the do’s and don’ts of this program so we are meeting with many local groups and community leaders, and after we do that we will talk about our plans and do them,” said Courtney Thurman, a freshman at Texas Tech who is one of the twelve members of CLA.
All applications are from Davis College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, all had common goals of what they want for CLA this first year therefore Dr. Headrick selection of those twelve individuals was easy.
“With hopes by the end of the program to use grant money that we are given in order to make a difference with the $10,000 donated by CH and Helen Jones grant,” Thurman said.
Headrick said a lot of CLA goals overlap from team and personal, they want to show others that you can be a change maker and leave an impact.
Meetings are once a month and next month plans are to travel to Dallas and meet with the CEO of Southwest Airlines being a Texas Tech alum. Headrick said, “The Dallas trip is to help them see civic leadership on a local, regional, and national level.”
“There are no payments thus far to be a member of CLA or to travel with the group, everything should be covered by the grant that CLA received,” Thurman said.
CLA is a group set out to make a difference in not only the members lives but the community too.
“CLA is a steppingstone for college students to make a change, lots of students say they want to make a change but don’t know how and this program will show them they have the resources and power to do it, then the sky’s the limit,” Headrick said.
“Traditions and history are part of our local cultures, this is also part of our goals to, help teach our participants how to have those hard conversations,” said Headrick.
In April, CLA is partnering with the Lubbock mayor’s office and learning about local government and how the chamber of commerce ties into laws and community activities, as well as the police and their social media that deals with Lubbock crime and the role of civic leaders in local government.
This summer, CLA members will find two people who they define as civic leaders and do interviews with them so they can learn more about what it is to different people, as well as a common reading will be assigned.
Headrick said CLA is also partnering with the Texas Tech Innovation Hub on campus, which is starting to focus on social entrepreneurship. CLA is funded by the Helen Jones foundation and that money will go towards the trainings, speakers, leadership assessments, etc. throughout the year.
Headrick said the grant funds one year of the program, but after getting feedback, he is hopeful to extend the program for years to come.
For being a group just starting off their first year Dr. Headrick has lots in store for this group down the road. Headrick said the big proposal will be at the end of this year, where all members will come up with a plan, let the students decide where the grant money should be used.
“All students applied because they were interested and want to make change in communities whether that be in their hometown, here in Lubbock or anywhere in the nation, they want to make some sort of contribution as a civic leader,” said Dr. Headrick.