The third group of the Chamber of Commerce Vision XXI Leadership Class graduated during a ceremony Sept. 3 at the St. Paul Chong Hasang Catholic Parish Center.
In this first three years of the program, 60 residents have graduated from Vision XXI, according to Dr. Jim Anderson, a former Central Texas College chancellor and creator and curriculum writer for the class.
The individuals in the class are supported by businesses and public organizations. For the first time ever, 11 Harker Heights High School students were class members.
Among many months of field trips, each class has submitted a project whose purpose was to serve a need in Harker Heights.
The Heights Food Care Center and Killeen ISD H.A.R.P. program for the homeless have benefitted so far, with the class of 2015 choosing Streetscape.
Past graduates have been lawyers, educators, a physician, a successful Realtor, several bankers, a field-grade Army officer, several successful businesswomen, small-business owners, a college student and a minister.
“They joined the class because we told them they would learn something about our city, the services provided, how the city is managed and what the hopes are for the future,” Anderson said. “It’s all been focused on making Harker Heights a better city in which to live and work.”
Class member Maribeli Vargas of Central Texas College spoke on behalf of many in the group, saying, “I understand now much more about the local community, being able to make new contacts and found out what help is needed.”
Several past class members have served on the chamber board of directors. “Three from this graduating class are on the board already,” Anderson said.
Heather Cox, activities coordinator for Harker Heights Parks and Recreation, shared several opportunities for work and play available for residents in the city. She addressed volunteerism such as the Citizen’s Police Academy, Neighborhood Watch Group, Library Program, Pet Adoption Center, and the Parks and Recreation Department plus coaches for athletic teams.
Gina Pence, president and CEO for the chamber, notified the class that the chamber is always in need of volunteers for many of their activities.
There are a variety of committees where ideas generated by the class can be used for the good of the chamber and the community.
“Our ambassadors play a vitally important role and I would encourage you as graduates to be part of this team which reaches out to new people and businesses and welcomes them to Heights through ribbon cutting ceremonies and other events,” Pence said.
Cyd West of First Community Mortgage thanked the class for all its efforts and spoke of the Shining Star award presented to Laura Collier in 2013.
A tree was planted in her honor at Purser Park. “This has become a tradition with the class and again a tree will be planted during the 2016 class for the 2015 Shining Star,” West said.
The Shining Star for 2015, as chosen by his peers, is HHHS senior Alexander Fermin.
“I’m really appreciative of the other class members giving me an opportunity to grow as a person in my field of study,” Fermin said. “I was overwhelmed by the benefits that I received through this program. It was much more than just monthly field trips.”
The Streetscape project created by the class is running behind schedule, but there will be a ceremony held that the 2015 class would be invited to as the first banner is lifted into place.
Receiving certificates of graduation at the ceremony were Alexander Fermin, Elizabeth Whitfield, Sarah Crowder, Alexandria Wetmore, Denise Carrillo, Neal Wendele, Ariana Welch, Maricelli Vargas, Susann Stergios, Madison Scarr, Adyanee Perkins, Dusti Patterson, John Marshall, Cecillia Luera, Lisa Kerschner, Jonathan Hood, Marshall Hoel, Ernesto Hernandez, Willy Gutierrez, Nancy Gutierrez, Saidee Godoy, Sweena Florian, Brittany Whitfield and Lisa Burkhart.