The Leadership Eatonville program – launched in 2016 with support from the Winter Park Health Foundation – held its second commencement ceremony to celebrate the success of fifteen more people who have met the full requirements to graduate. This inspirational ceremony was filled with the graduates’ presentation of their ideas for a healthier Eatonville.
Leadership Eatonville is led by Polis Institute (POLIS) on behalf of the Healthy Eatonville Team (HET) in an effort to enhance resident leadership capacity to make the Town a healthier, more vibrant place. The leaders’ ideas build on the substantial work that is underway or has already been accomplished in part through the Healthy Eatonville Team, including: plans for a magnet program at the new Hungerford Elementary School, a mixed-income housing project, business development along Wymore Road, the adoption of a new town charter and maturing of civic leadership.
The Leadership Eatonville II class developed ideas for fifteen community initiatives focused on recreation, education, community support services, access to healthy food, economic development and emergency response services; all of which have the potential to bring significant positive changes to the Town if the ideas are well-developed, connected to comprehensive strategies and plans, and receive proper investment and support. Graduates are invited to participate in coaching sessions to fully flesh out their ideas as a next step.
Leadership Eatonville is part of a comprehensive community engagement strategy deployed by POLIS in 2016 to engage the town along three tiers: residents; regionally influential leaders (aka Investor Council); and supporting entities (e.g. non-profits, churches, civic institutions, businesses). To initiate the strategy, a team, predominantly comprised of residents, was trained and hired by POLIS to engage town residents in structured conversations at the door of their homes. 383 residents of Eatonville were surveyed while the team visited 100% of the 730 households in the town. The conversations focused on leadership and what people wanted to see improve in their community. Over half the respondents considered themselves a community leader; however, 10% of those said they had no opportunities to lead. The most significant area of interest for improvement was the development of activities for Eatonville youth.