OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Leadership Academy's first class of graduates has a new outlook on the community and has worked for nearly a year to address four overarching issues.
The academy, funded by Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, graduated its first class of 18 students Thursday night. The once-a-month, 10-month program had participants delve into issues in Ottumwa and Wapello County, ranging from quality of life to local government to human and community services.
The program is an opportunity that employers can offer to those employees they feel could benefit from further professional development and involvement in the community, said the academy's executive director, Hollie Tometich.
"Our mission is really to develop effective community leaders for the benefit of the community," she said. "If you want to get involved but don't know how to start, this is a great way to do it. Or if you're already involved, this is a way to extend your reach ... another way to have some doors opened."
Graduation gave each group an opportunity to unveil the results of their projects: "Welcome to Ottumwa," the business advocate project, sports facilities and product distribution to the food insecure.
One group was tasked with assessing the possibility of a new sports facility in Ottumwa. Lori Reeves said the group spoke with the town's different youth sports groups to determine whether their current facilities were adequate and if a new sports facility would be a good idea.
"Of course soccer really wants something new, because their fields are completely inadequate," Reeves said. "Softball has five fields, but only two are regulation size. And there are some innate problems in Ottumwa Park. There's low water pressure, meaning you can't flush a toilet more often than every five minutes. There's poor lighting, no parking and ambulances have trouble getting in and out. There's also no way to funnel people to charge them [for entry into a tournament]."