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Leadership Johnston announces 2021 graduates

Johnston County, NC — Leadership Johnston celebrated its newest graduates at their first meeting on June 24. Despite the challenges of this past year, Leadership Johnston forged ahead under a new format focused on Crisis Leadership. The graduation ceremony held at the Tobacco Farm Life Museum and sponsored by KS Bank, was the first time these class members met in person.


This year's graduates include William Brown (Benson Police Department), Melissa Curry (KS Bank, Inc.), Gary Johnson (Town of Smithfield, Lovette Kirks (Partnership for Children of Johnston County), Chadwick Little (KS Bank, Inc.) Samuel O’Brien (AdVenture Development), Lindsey Parnell (Johnston Community College, Lucia Planchon (Partnership for Children of Johnston County), Leighanna Thompson (Town of Wilson’s Mills), Telia Virgin (Johnston County Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority), and Brian Worley (Johnston Community College). 


With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Leadership Johnston board had to make some changes to this traditionally 9-month, in-person, touring heavy program. Board Chair Tim Kerigan stated “this has been a challenging year for all, but this group of leaders stepped up to the challenge.  During times of crisis, such as COVID-19, everyone must adjust, but true leaders provide steadfast and unwavering direction. We look forward to our next class where we will be able to return to in-person learning and group activities.” 


With the help of Zoom, the program was able to convene the class virtually and bring the key leaders and organizations to the class for meaningful conversations on how to be a “crisis leader”. In addition, the class dove deep into their leadership skills training and study of the The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner and completed a NonProfit Practicum where they partnered with Johnston County nonprofits to learn more about their organizations, structure, and impacts. These experiences built partnerships that will impact our communities in the future. 


Lucia Planchon (2021 graduate) reflected on her experience this year with these comments. “[The Leadership Challenge] perfectly aligned to help us take steps towards leadership, and [the NonProfit Practicum] was the perfect opportunity to put those skills into practice! Overall, we learned that leadership is a moment or a conversation away ... I cannot thank Leadership Johnston for the motivation and guidance it provided me this past semester!”


Planning for the 2022 class has begun and anticipates a return to an in-person format with some added elements beginning in January. Applications are now being accepted. Interested professionals can learn more and apply by visiting the Leadership Johnston website at


About Leadership Johnston


Leadership Johnston is a leadership development program sponsored by Johnston Community College and the Johnston County chambers of commerce. The mission of the program is to cultivate leaders by providing the knowledge, motivation and networking needed to affect positive change in Johnston County through civic service, business, and non-profit organizations. Leadership Johnston is an Affiliate of the Triangle East Economic Development Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization.

Pictured: (Left) Mike Mancuso, John Parker, Katie Crowder, Chad Little, Lovette Kirks, Sam O'Brien, Melissa Curry, Telia Virgin, Lindsey Parnell, Brian Worley, Lucia Planchon, Harold Keen, Kelly Wallace.