LSET continues regional education efforts, building key relationships

Published 8:40 am Thursday, August 27, 2015

Special to The Leader

BEAUMONT — Enhanced business opportunities, recognition of common goals and heightened personal development are named by alumni as just three of the benefits provided by Leadership Southeast Texas (LSET) since it was created in 1992.

About 175 Southeast Texans gathered at the Beaumont Club Tuesday evening to review the past year, to meet the incoming Class of 2016 participants and to learn about the projects undertaken by the Class of 2015. LSET President Tom Henry notes that the non-profit program serving a nine-county area “utilizes a mixed format of educational instruction and Q&A from guest speakers, followed by detailed interaction in focus groups.” By working together, says Henry, participants invariably find that they’ve established professional relationships that “are useful not only on a personal level, but also have opened doors to business opportunities.” Henry, the turnaround refinery manager for Total Petrochemicals & Refining USA’s Port Arthur Refinery, notes that participants reflect the diversity of the targeted region, including representatives of industry, local governmental entities, school districts and commercial establishments, among others.

Participants sometimes learn as much about the region from their classmates as they do from the outside speakers, according to some graduates. Those who have gone through the LSET program then join other alumni in seeking candidates from throughout the region to nominate for future classes.
Benefits of the program are not limited to the year of participation either according to graduates such as Kathleen Hardey. She says her LSET experience has paid off in three ways: by providing enduring friendships with other participants, by building her knowledge about issues that she did not previously realize were important and by bolstering regional thinking on a broad scale. “We succeed when we work together,” adds Hardey, who is the human resources manager for the Stark Foundation in Orange.
One new Class of 2016 participant declares her expectations for the coming year succinctly “LSET looks to be one of the toughest jobs we will ever love!” asserts Ruth Hancock, president of the West Orange-Stark Independent School District’s board of trustees.
The LSET mission is to educate, engage and inspire leaders as regional citizens by promoting a better understanding of the nine counties that make up Southeast Texas, including counties of Chambers, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty Newton, Orange, Tyler and Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County. The Class of 2015 took that charge to heart; with nine teams undertaking service projects offering benefits to the nine county LSET programming area. Projects included improvements to the North Beaumont Little League Field, the Kountze Big Thicket National Preserve Bike Trail Mile Markers plus Youth Bike and Helmet Give-away, and support for the Lone Survivor Foundation retreat facility on Crystal Beach on the Bolivar Peninsula.
Some 537 Youth from Southeast Texas high schools have also gained from leadership training. Dr. Dwaine Augustine, LSET alumnus and the assistant superintendent-secondary administration for the Beaumont Independent School District, continues to marvel at the commitment of young men and women who have graduated from the youth program since 2011. “I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of students giving back and adults giving back to the students.” While visiting a campus last week during freshman registration, he ran into a young woman who eagerly asked, “Remember me?” She had graduated two years ago, but returns to the campus each year to assist freshmen with their first-time registration. According to Augustine, she is continuing the work that she and her Y-LSET classmates began as their class project.

LSET has been in operation since 1992, with each class examining the strengths, weaknesses, obstacles and opportunities for economic development and building regional unity along the way. The organization was incorporated in July 2007 and is governed by a board of directors with programming implemented by an advisory council. Now a 501 (c)(3) organization, LSET is based in the International Safety Training Council (ISTC) facility in Nederland.

The ultimate benefit of the group’s work, says LSET Executive Director Bessie Chisum, “is an ever-improving quality of life for all of us who call Southeast Texas our home!”