Les Echols, Director of Community and Minority Enterprise for the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, recently joined 39 leaders from the Midlands and surrounding area in completing the Riley Institute at Furman’s Diversity Leaders Initiative.
Over the past five months, participants in the program examined sensitive issues related to diversity and inclusion, explored “blind spots” and discussed how to suspend assumptions. Facilitating the program was Juan Johnson, an independent consultant and former Coca-Cola vice president.
As part of the program, participants worked in small, cross-sector groups to respond to real issues and opportunities in their communities through service projects. Echols’ group, College Bound Kids, created a project that focuses on increasing education for parents and students about 529 college savings plans and developing resources to assist them, which in turn will give more students the opportunity to attend college.
DLI class members are identified through a rigorous process including a nomination, application, and interview. Individuals are selected to join the class based on their capacity to impact their organizations and communities. In addition to the Midlands, DLI classes are selected annually in the Upstate and Lowcountry. Each class is crafted to reflect the diverse demographics in South Carolina.
DLI graduates become Riley Fellows, members of a powerful, cross-sector, statewide leadership network that includes CEOs of corporations, mayors, city and county council members, legislators, school superintendents, pastors and rabbis, non-profit heads, chamber of commerce directors and community leaders.
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