Putting together a new group – building on past experience! Every two years the challenge is renewed. Class II of TALL was approached with more confidence, a better feel for what was needed. For subsequent classes, a pattern has been established. The first step, of course, is to select an outstanding group of potential leaders. Fortunately, the word is out and there is a good understanding of our goals and mission. TALL has taken on a life of its own!
With announcement of each class, county Extension agents and Specialists, the media and especially the farm press are of immense help with publicity. The response is encouraging. Applications are carefully reviewed by a committee, and individual interviews scheduled. Twenty-four or more top candidates are selected. The quality has been high for this “once in a lifetime” experience.
One of the real challenges in making a final decision on who to pick for TALL is the interview and selection process. Given a limited time with each candidate, even with an extensive application form, it is often difficult to truly assess merit and, most of all, leadership potential. Strong emphasis is placed on the recommendation of employers, Extension administrators and others who are well acquainted with the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate. Failure to be selected does not disqualify promising young leaders from applying again.
Another area of concern involves the balance of ethnicity among the candidates. More than a matter of qualification, there have been problems in obtaining applications from potential leaders that could profit greatly from the experience. They can contribute much toward a better understanding of the cultural environment that is changing rapidly in Texas. For example, demographic data show that today, 25% of all Texans are Hispanic, 36% of Texas youth are Hispanic and 51% of Texas school-age children are from minority groups. It is imperative that TALL assist in developing the leaders this ethnic mix will require.
That tomorrow’s leaders, representing the minorities, would profit enormously from TALL goes without saying. The question: Where are they? How can they be identified and encouraged to apply? Experience shows that when candidates of different minorities apply, they fare well during the selection process. The best hope is that through our educational system, youth groups, 4-H and FFA, we can identify them early. The talented ones will surface, continue to improve their own capabilities and assume leadership roles.