When Laura Collier joined the Harker Heights Vision XXI Leadership Program, she didn’t think of herself as a future leader, but her classmates did as they voted her the 2014 “Rising Star.”

She was honored with a tree-planting ceremony of a live oak July 11 at Purser Family Park.

“I learned so much about the opportunities we have, so there is a way for everyone to become a leader,” said Collier, a branch manager at 1st National Bank.

In it’s second year, the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce Vision XXI program teaches participants about various city services, plans for the future and helps nurture leaders from the class. Gina Pence, president of the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber decided on the tree planting for each class to recognize a rising star in the community.

“The relationships that have been built are tremendous, because it grows a stronger environment in our city,” Pence said.

The participants attended six sessions over eight months with each session covering topics, such as education, transportation and quality of life.

The attendees learn what’s available in the community, and what that organization does for the city.

Thirteen class members attended Friday’s sessions that highlighted the Harker Heights Parks and Recreation Department, the Stewart C. Meyer library and the police department.

“Since 1995, we went from 22 park acres to 223 park acres with seven parks,” said Jerry Bark, director of Parks and Recreation.

He cited the Community Gardens and the Adaptive Sports program for special needs children as a few of its popular and most successful programs.

Lisa Youngblood, library director, told the group the library is not a building but a concept, and mentioned its virtual library with resources available 24/7 online.

“Our library is a place where you can find what you need for self actualization, education and information,” she said.

Longtime resident Carla Wright found the session to be a real eye-opening experience.

“I never knew all the services available, because as a citizen, you don’t know what your city offers,” Wright said.

Jail tour

A tour of the police station with Community Service Officer Dave Haley included a rare glimpse inside the holding cells.

“Today, 56 officers serve in five divisions, and our Citizens Police Academy gives people a working knowledge of what the police department does,” Haley said.

“We want Harker Heights to be a safe place and we have to make sure we do our job.”

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