The 2020 Class of Leadership Texas completed their first session of the program year in Dallas.  As those who have participated in the program in the past, you know the first session is a time of great anticipation….and even nerves!  But all that dissipates as you get to know your fellow classmates to find that you all are leaders in your own way and have so much to contribute.

The Dallas agenda was jammed packed, starting on Sunday with Alise Cortez’s presentation on “Standing in Strengths: Living and Leading from Your Legacy,” followed by a presentation from Dr. Lila Valencia on “The Changing Demographics of Texas.”

On Monday we started our day at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. LT’16 graduate Tara Payne, VP of Communications and Outreach at the Dallas Fed, served as our host for informative presentations by Meredith Black and Emily Kerr on the Role of the Federal Reserve and the Texas Economic Outlook.  LT’19 graduates Heidi Mitchell and Missy Luton, along with Pipeline graduates Jenna Dillenback (LP’19) and Jenae Rodriquez (LP’18) helped welcome LT 2020 to the Fed.

Zeneta Drew, LT’10, welcomed LT2020 to Dallas Black Dance Theatre on Monday afternoon, providing the perfect history lesson of the Moorland YMCA building (home of DBDT) – once the epicenter of the black community of Dallas and the icon of exclusion – and providing LT2020 the background and vision of DBDT founder Ann Williams and the rise of the company as the icon of inclusion.   Presentations by Lily Weiss, Katherine Wagner and Kourtny Garrett detailed the history of the Arts District, the economic impact of the arts in Dallas and the challenges of a large downtown district.

For Monday afternoon, the class headed to Paul Quinn College, the nation’s first urban work college, in south Dallas.  The amazing Dr. Kizuwanda Gayden Grant, VP of Institutional Programs and Senior Director of Compliance at Paul Quinn, provided an overview of the college, its mission and its challenges.  To learn more about Paul Quinn, check out this their Who We Are video.

Leadership Texas 2020’s own Valerie Hawthorne, Director of Government Relations at The North Texas Food Bank, joined a panel of incredible women leaders making a difference in the fight against poverty.  Loretta Landry with the Child Poverty Action Lab, Stephanie Mace with the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and Nadia Salibi with CitySquare discussed the rising numbers of families in poverty and the actions their organizations are taking combat poverty and hunger.  Over 43% of individuals and 38% of families in Dallas County live under two times the federal poverty level.  In the city of Dallas, 1 in 3 children live in poverty.  Poverty is a moral issue, an economic issue and a Dallas issue – and hearing from women leaders making a difference in this space was informative and inspiring.

The evening ended on Monday with an inspirational visit to Cafe Momentum.  Chef Chad Houser passionately described his journey and their mission to transforms young lives by equipping our community’s most at-risk youth with life skills, education and employment opportunities to help them achieve their full potential.  Their 12-month paid post release internship program for young men and women coming out of juvenile facilities is a transformative experience.  Learn more here about Cafe Momentum.

On Tuesday, LT2020 welcomed Ja’Salyn T. Smith with the US Census Bureau, offering information on the importance of the upcoming 2020 Census and answering questions regarding the process and how women leaders can become more involved in their communities.  Make sure you watch out for your census materials and, more importantly, that you complete the census form online.  For more information on the Census, check out the Census 2020 website.   For our last speaker of the session, Holly Reed provided information on transportation and infrastructure in Texas with an update the Texas Central Railway, which hopes to link Dallas, College Station and Houston.

This year’s class is made up of 90 women from all across Texas, representing corporations, non-profits, government, healthcare, military, higher education etc.  To truly understand the Leadership Texas experience, make sure you check out the newest LW video on the LT Program.