By Pat Closson, Leadership Seacoast Board Chair

Each year that we kick off a new program year at the Browne Center in Durham, I think about my first program day.  I remember that it was one of those cold, crisp, clear winter days when the ground crunches under your feet as you walk to your car.  I remember the mix of nervousness and excited anticipation, like the first day of school, knowing that I would be meeting a group of new people, but a little bit intimidated knowing that they all have achieved such great things already (how would I measure up).   I remember walking into the Browne Center and seeing a sea of new faces, all as eager me and ready to embark on an adventure together.  The name games, ropes course challenges and personality tests are fond memories, but the crackling fire stands out in my memory as reminder the feeling of comfort and warmth that replaced my nervousness as the first program day went on.  I remember driving away from the Browne Center at the end of the day tired, overwhelmed, my mind racing and overflowing with all that I had just experienced.  I remember my enthusiasm as I told my wife about my day and all of the cool people that I met.  Finally, and best of all, I remember how excited I was for the next program day.

What followed was a series of explorations into the issues facing the Seacoast.  Over the next 5 months as a class, we confronted issues, challenged assumptions and questioned the status quo.  I encourage the Leadership Seacoast class of 2014 to do the same.  I challenge the class to use this opportunity to learn about the underlying issues that influence and impact the criminal justice system, health and human services system and education.  Dive deep and ask the leaders who will sit in front of you the tough questions, that is what they are there to answer.  I challenge you to start each program day with an open mind and ready to engage with your classmates and challenge the assumptions that you bring with you.

I also challenge you to see each program day as a starting point, and in some cases a launch pad.  As you take part in each program ask “what’s next?”, for you, for your class, and for your community.  As an alum, I know that when you look back on the opening retreat you will realize that it was just the beginning of a great journey.

Good luck Leadership Seacoast Class of 2014. Enjoy the journey.