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New program is paying early dividends

Linda Brune

Linda Brune

Jackson Leadership Initiative Program began last October

Two Jackson businesswomen’s vision has become a reality.

Kim Wolford grew tired of watching young political science majors graduate and move away from Mississippi due to the lack of opportunity.

Linda Brune felt those same college students needed to see how things work in government, up close and personal.

And through their persistence, the Jackson Leadership Initiative Program was begun last October and has enrolled five Mississippi college students in an internship program that will provide an introduction to hands-on government jobs, identify potential city leaders and train them in city and state government policy and procedures.

“Jackson needs to retain the brightest youth with the most potential to bring about needed improvement in the civic and government life of our city,” said Wolford, who is employed as a legal assistant at Jackson law firm Gilbert, PLLC.  “The contacts that the students are making through this program are invaluable.”

For Brune, who is an executive administrative assistant for Downtown Jackson Partners, the JLIP is a program whose time has come.

“There were bumps in the road getting it started but the response has been great,” said Brune.  “Having worked for (DJP president) Ben Allen when he was a city councilman, I knew there had been a similar program for years but it died.  By pairing with city departments and government officials, the students are exposed to government in action and they love it.”

One of those students is Betsy Kelly, who will graduate from the Mississippi College School of Law in May.  Now a resident of the Belhaven area in Jackson, Kelly says the program has given her a greater appreciation for her adopted hometown.

“The JLIP is a great opportunity for me to get more awareness about the city and be an informed advocate,” she said.  “Thus far, I’ve really enjoyed being involved in all aspects of both city and state government.”

Recently, Kelly spent a day in the city clerk’s office and with a policy analyst who advises the city council.  In the next few weeks, she says she’ll get to follow Jackson city councilman Jeff Weill for a day and attend a council work session.

The Jackson Leadership Initiative Program is sponsored by Adams and Reese LLP, the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, Mississippi Main Street Association and Downtown Jackson Partners.

“This is a whole new concept providing tremendous breadth of opportunity for college students, and the experiences they will gain from working under professionals from all walks of the government sector will prove to be an invaluable experience for them,” said John Hooks, a partner with Adams and Reese.

Unlike a typical internship program where students spend a semester at the same business or job, the JLIP offers more diverse opportunities.  Interns in the program can spend a day with a state legislator, a Jackson city councilman, a registered state lobbyist or with members of the Jackson fire and police departments.

“Despite the perception, Jackson is a wonderful town and Linda and I collaborated on the program to make a difference,” said Wolford, who moved to the Capital City from Washington, D.C., two years ago.  “Our participating colleges have been overwhelmed with students wanting to join the program.”

Shirley Tucker says the JLIP fills a void in the community and helps students find employment opportunities locally.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity afforded to these college students,” said Tucker, executive director of leadership development with the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership.

At the conclusion of the program, participants will receive a certificate of completion from the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership and attend a special luncheon.  Each of the students will be required to complete an evaluation of the JLIP and how they believe they can effectuate positive change.

“The Leadership Initiative Program places college political science students in various internships that allow them to see real-world situations and how important it is to give back to the community,” said Bob Wilson, executive director with the Mississippi Main Street Association.

Students enrolling in the first semester of the program include Kelly and Romika Bridges, Mississippi College School of Law; Lauren Guichard, Millsaps College; and, Bethany Bridges and JaLisa Jorden, Jackson State University.

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