The 19 new members of Vision XXI 2017 met earlier this month for Orientation Day at the Armed Services YMCA, kicking off the program’s fifth year.

Mary Shabunia, vice-president for business development at the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce and facilitator of this year’s activities, welcomed the group and introduced Dr. Jim Anderson, creator of the Vision XXI program and retired chancellor of Central Texas College.

“This isn’t a leadership class; it’s Vision XXI,” Anderson said. “Every chamber has a leadership class. This is much more.”

The program was designed to impart a shared vision about the Harker Heights of the future.

“Its outcome is that the participants find out what this city is all about and why it’s a good place to live, work and how it’s going to be better,” Anderson said.

The past class membership has consisted of people from Harker Heights High School, the college, the university, a minister, lawyer, doctor, Realtors, bankers, Army officers and others who have come from all walks of life.

“The best change in the program is that now students from the high school are members of Vision XXI,” Anderson said.

Three of the members of the Chamber Board are graduates of Vision XXI and the board chair is a Vision XXI graduate along with a former chairperson.

Anderson said, “On graduation day, my hope is you’ll say surely this isn’t over. I’ve had such a good time!”

Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Gina Pence said, “This is not a lecture class. You’ll be on tour and seeing many places over the next seven months. Each class experience will take you behind the scenes of places you’ve never been and there will be CEO’s and businesses leaders speaking with you that you’ve never met before.”

One of the new ideas for 2017 is that throughout the coming months, class members will have mentors at each location. They are there to support the participants and answer any questions they might have.

They are Samantha Mejia-Ft. Hood Day; Amy Bawcom and Dr. Jim Anderson-Education Day; Mary Shabunia, Dr. Jim Anderson and Melissa Purl-Medical Day; Eric Putt-Quality of Life Day; Cyd West-Legislative Day; and Andrea Womack-Economic Day. Graduation Day is Nov. 2.

Shabunia directed the group in another new twist, in which each person chooses one of the themed days and becomes a member of a team that will plan the activities for that day.

The first activity of Orientation day was “Personality Lingo” presented by Suzanne Taylor of First National Bank.

Class members divided into groups depending on their leadership style. Each person fit into four groups: thinkers, planners, connectors and movers.

Taylor told them to go online to personality.com to learn additional information about their particular style.

After lunch provided by Seton Medical Center, Cyd West shared what the class project would be for 2017.

In years past, the class participants would work together to decide what the project would be but that’s all changing in that the Vision Steering Committee has already decided what the idea will be.

West said, “I’m excited to tell you that your project is a beautification effort in conjunction with the city of Harker Heights as we line FM 2410 on both sides with crape myrtles from the chamber offices toward Community Park.

The Texas Department of Transportation has directed where the trees can be planted and granted permission to move forward.

This class won’t be able to raise enough money to complete the entire project but will make great strides in accomplishing Phase 1.

The class of 2018 will finish the project with benches, fountains to enhance what has been done or continue to see that the trees are planted all the way to Comanche Gap Road during Phase 2.

The class will divide into three committees: marketing, finance and sales and set a goal of how many trees are needed then hit the streets to attract sponsors. In fact, class members signed up for their committees on Orientation Day.

Ten-by-ten bricks will also be on sale for organizations, businesses or individuals who wish to place a message at the base of the tree in memory of someone or to show they are supporting this Chamber project.

“One of the committees will have the responsibility of purchasing and designing a plaque that will be on display at the Chamber offices naming this row of trees in honor of Dr. Anderson for all the work he’s done for Vision XXI,” West said.

The final activity of the day was a presentation by Joyce Hodson, director of the Killeen ISD Education Foundation, who also teaches etiquette, social skills and ballroom dance to the youth of the area.

Hodson had the class out of their seats practicing how to properly greet each other and then put on a mock after-dinner mixer where class members were to carry a plate, cup and napkin while shaking hands and introducing themselves.

Vision XXI will meet the first Thursday of every month.

The next 2017 class theme is Fort Hood Day, to be held May 4.

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