Dr. Jim Anderson, creator of Vision XXI, under the guidance and support of the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce, handed out certificates of achievement to the sixth class of graduates during a Nov. 2 ceremony held at the Armed Services YMCA.

Anderson’s reaction to the 2017 graduation was a mirror image of the others, with that same sense of pride about him and a controlled grin that quietly transferred how much these community servants have meant to him.

“I had attended the Killeen Chamber’s Leadership class. The chairman of the Heights Chamber Board at that time, who passed several years ago, pulled me aside and told me I was going to be the chairman of Quality of Life,” Anderson said. ” I was not on the chamber board but had a committee that six years later has one member, and you’re looking at him, “Anderson said.

Anderson’s vision was not to have another leadership class but to find a way to show people that Harker Heights is a good place.

“I couldn’t do this by myself, so Cyd West jumped into the fray and suggested that we’ve got to have them do something for the city. Thanks to Cyd, all the classes have pulled off some outstanding projects,”

Anderson told the graduates, “I hope that you’ve had a good time here and in days to come you’ll say you were in Vision XXI, get an invitation to serve on the Chamber Board and say yes!”

Heights Chamber president and CEO Gina Pence was coordinator of Vision XXI in the beginning; then Mary Shabunia joined the staff and in April became the Vision XXI leader.

She told the group, “You guys did an awesome job and did a ton of work. I really had a good time with all of you!”

The day was filled with a report on the Anderson Arbors class project, two motivational speakers, the announcement of the Best Planned Day and Rising Star recipient and then lunch provided by the ASYMCA.

Pence has always emphasized the importance of Vision XXI graduates being involved as members of Chamber committees.

“My hope is that you will continue your involvement after graduation. We can use several volunteers to work in so many ways,” she said.

Vision XXI 2017’s class project was a beautification venture in the form of planting crepe myrtle trees along Farm-to-Market 2410 / Knights Way. Class members were challenged to raise enough money for 30 trees.

If they reached that goal, the planting process would begin. Eventually, the development became known as Anderson Arbors in honor of Jim Anderson. The planting in Phase One will be along the sidewalks on the west side of Knights Way extending from the chamber offices to near McDonalds.

Cyd West, the Vision XXI project coordinator, announced to the class members gathered at graduation that the class had sold 50 trees — 20 more than their goal — and that they had raised more money than any other class in the history of Vision XXI.

The 18-member class let out a mighty cheer to the news that they had sold $15,000 worth of trees.

The Arbor package costs $300 each and includes the tree plus a brick that can be personalized by the purchaser and placed at the base of the tree.

West said, “This project is not over and will continue into next year. We want to sell enough of these that we can line FM 2410 on both sides as far as the eye can see.”

Awards presented at the graduation were: HHFD Fire Chief Paul Sims was named the 2017 Vision XXI Rising Star. Sims will have a tree planted in his honor next year at Community Park.

West said, “This award is voted on by the class and the person who is selected shines as a leader, encouragement to others, lives the mission of the class and stands above the rest.”

Shabunia introduced a new award this year. In years past, Chamber officials planned the monthly field trips.

“The class members signed up for the theme day of their choice. We decided to go with a popular vote from within the class as to who would be the winners. The winning day for 2017 was “Education Day,” according to Shabunia.

Serving on that committee were Brian Sunshine along with HHHS students Paige Seaton, Santana Espinoza, Madison Shock and HHHS Student Activities Director Kayren McCarty.

The team won “Best Day” coffee mugs stuffed with $1 million (in play money, of course).

The travel days were the core of the Vision XXI experience. Vision XXI members met once a month in April, May, June, July, August, September and October.

The featured trips this year were: Fort Hood Day, Education Day, Medical Day, Quality of Life Day, Legislative Day and Economic Day.

Motivational speaker Jim Crothers of Life Together Coaching, LLC told the class, “There are all kinds of things that we can do in our community and the chamber, that can bless Harker Heights and make it a better place. What I began to understand is that I’ve got to do something to make a difference and for me that means that every day I will add value to the little guy. I will find someone in my life to add value to. The key to leadership is connecting with like-minded people.”

Kendra Coufal, senior planner with the Central Texas Council of Governments in Belton, promoted Leadership Central Texas 2017 that is recruiting members for its class in 2018.

“We are looking for people who have already had experience in leadership training and can share their knowledge on a regional basis.” Coufal said. “We take our local leaders and expose them to the regional area and further develop their strengths.”

Graduates receiving certificates of achievement and a Vision XXI calendar were: Joseph A. Decroce, Michael Beard, Paul Sims, Linda Hutto, Leslie Sterne, Chris Wahlgren, Stephanie Hughes, Natalie Austin, Mike Stokke, David Albalat, Linda Hopson, Jacqueline Clemons-Stubbs, Janan West, Brian Sunshine, Jacqueline Tidline, Madison Shock, Paige Seaton and Santana Espinoza.

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