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RALEIGH, NC— The NC Rural Center graduated 18 participants last week from their Rural Economic Development Institute (REDI), the organization’s flagship leadership development program, sponsored by Wells Fargo and Jordan Lumber. The three-month intensive training program, now in its 31st year, has helped more than 1,300 existing and emerging leaders across the state further develop their skills and increase their knowledge of economic and community development strategies, equipping them with the tools they need to tackle issues facing their rural communities.

Rural Center Board Chair Andy Anderson presented certificates to the graduating class and encouraged them to keep the important connections they’ve made over this experience. “During my own REDI training I learned to listen, to leverage what we had in our hands, and lead with permission from and compassion for my neighbors,” said Anderson. Anderson serves as a disaster recovery advocate for Disability Rights North Carolina and is a William Friday Fellow. 

This year’s class included the following participants, made up of economic development professionals, educators, and civic and nonprofit leaders: Renee Clark, Office of Rural Health; Drew Collier, Tau Delta Phi Fraternity; P.J. Connelly, Office of the Governor; Heather Cotton; City of Marion; Keith Graham, Men and Women United for Youth & Families; Denisha Harris, Town of Cary; Ed Hunt, University of North Carolina at Pembroke; Miles Kirksey, NC Rural Center; LaVonia Lewis, Men and Women United for Youth & Families; Stephanie Loyka-Bruschi, BaySix; Colby Martin, North Carolina Community Foundation; Lucette Mercer, Green Rural Redevelopment Organization, Inc. (GRRO); JaLisha Richmond, Thread Capital; Shavanda Rountree, US House of Representatives; Emily Sloss, Self-Help Credit Union; David Smith, Town of Mt. Gilead; Jamal Thompson, The Pilot Foundation, Inc.; and Kaitie von Cosmos, Wilkes Recovery Revolution.

“REDI has taught me to pause and reflect on my ‘why’ of leadership in my community. This program has inspired me to see where I might be a good fit as a leader,” said participant Kaitie von Cosmos. “I have learned something new from every classmate and I have already seen some amazing things come out of this program.”

Graduates of REDI join an extensive alumni network that spans all of North Carolina’s 100 counties and includes graduates from the Rural Center’s other leadership training program, Homegrown Leaders. Many of the Center’s leadership alumni are active in state and local government, and in philanthropic, nonprofit, and small-business sectors, as well as in faith and community-based organizations. 

“This year’s REDI class has tremendous passion for and commitment to their rural communities,” said senior director of leadership and engagement, Bronwyn Lucas. “The NC Rural Center recognizes the critical link between rural leaders that are inclusive, connected, and informed, and the potential for creative, resilient, and more vibrant rural communities across the state. We are so proud to have this class join our growing network of leadership alumni.” 

“Leadership development is at the core of the Rural Center’s work, and now more than ever it is important that our leaders are equipped with the skills and tools to foster growth and innovation,” said NC Rural Center President Patrick Woodie. “We’re excited to see the impact our REDI graduates will have in their communities and regions.”  

This year’s REDI training was made possible through the philanthropic support of Wells Fargo and Jordan Lumber, as well as First National Bank and United Community Bank. “We are thankful for our sponsors and for their belief and optimism in our mission and in the future of our state’s rural people and places,” said Woodie. 

“Wells Fargo is a proud partner of the NC Rural Center and has been for many years,” said Juan Austin, Community Relations senior manager for Wells Fargo. “We share the Center’s belief that leadership starts at the local level and are thrilled to support rural leaders across the state. Congratulations to the 30th REDI Class!”

“Jordan Lumber & Supply, Inc. is honored to support this year’s REDI class to help build North Carolina’s rural leaders,” said Robert Jordan IV, president & CEO, Jordan Family of Companies. “We have been a dedicated partner of the NC Rural Center for more than 30 years and are proud to continue to lift up our state’s rural communities.”