The largest group of Twin County Leadership Institute graduates was celebrated on Thursday evening at the Crossroads Institute in Galax. The group of 19, which was made up of residents of the Twin Counties, presented brief programs to highlight their leadership projects, followed by remarks given by keynote speaker David Bailey. Grayson County Extension Agent Kevin Spurlin served as instructor of the class, which met for six sessions to build leadership skills, increase their awareness of community issues, network with other leaders and become more engaged in community, civic and governmental activities. Spurlin said these objectives are met through six components in the Innovative Leadership: Building Community Connections program, which was developed by Dr. Martha Walker, an Extension community viability specialist. The first is leadership traits, Spurlin said. The second is effective communication. The third is team building. The fourth module is envisioning and goal setting. Then we talk about strategic planning, the community aspects. The final module is working with local boards and organizations. Spurlin said what the graduates learned during the course has applications in all walks of life. The principles go across not only local government, but also civic, he said. The principles can be applied in the family or a church group, any place. The class was divided into four groups, which presented their projects at the graduation ceremony. The first group, dubbed the Twin County Coalition for Young Adults, had a project centering on retaining the areas young minds. They noted in the Grayson County High School Class of 1990, 49 percent stayed in the Twin Counties, 29 percent left and 17 percent are unaccounted for. At $60,000 for a school system to educate an individual, that equated to a $2.76 million investment that left the area. A solution they proposed was a regularly scheduled, organized meal for young adults in the community to foster a sense of community and create social networking opportunities, among other benefits. The second group, the Twin County Meth Busters, targeted a problem area in the community: the manufacture and abuse of methamphetamines. Their research showed that the U.S. Department of Justice lists Galax as one of three Virginia localities with a known meth cartel, joining Richmond and Arlington. The group showed photographs of what meth does to abusers and listed statistics showing how easy it is to become addicted to the drug, which can be made from common household chemicals. Their solution was to advocate education about the dangers of meth to ninth and 10th grade students in the Twin Counties. The Building Bridge Coalition was third, focusing on joining generations for joint benefits for both groups. They said the younger generation could help older generations keep up with whats going on in todays world, while the older generations can endow the youth with a sense of heritage and tradition. They proposed a volunteer organization to teach the lessons of the past to the youth while learning from them. Already, they have found a retired marine biologist and a CPR instructor willing to take part in the effort and they plan on presenting their project to the Lambsburg Community Center in hopes of securing a base of operations. The fourth group, Helping Hands, centered on how community gardens benefit the community. They listed community benefits, such as how it develops close-knit areas and teaching the value of working together, to family benefits, such as reduced food budgets due to homegrown crops, and individual benefits, such as physical activity and the feeling of pride in accomplishment. Their proposal was to plan and implement at least one community garden somewhere that is accessible to individuals throughout the Twin Counties. The 2010 graduates of the Twin County Leadership Institute are: Jenny Grabman Bird, Tim Carpenter, Suzanne Carroll, Leonard Todd Catron, Howard Edwards, Sharonette Edwards, Donna Hale, Patty Hill, Dalana McGrady, Leesa Morris, Robert Reed, Rhonda Roberts, Lisa Sayers, Amy Sieb, Mitch Smith, Kevin Stanley, Curt Sumner, Michelle Thompson and Jonathan White.