Congratulations to the 2018 LEAD Athens Class

Congratulations LEAD Athens Class of 2018


On Thursday, April 12th the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce’s LEAD Athens Program celebrated the graduation of twenty-nine participants from the ten-month-long program.


LEAD Athens is a program of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce designed to develop effective leaders committed to building a vibrant community. The intense year-long program explores a myriad of topics including economic development, local industry, health care, government, secondary and higher education, the arts and more. Participants learn about current issues and explore future challenges through monthly sessions and completion of a community project leading to a well-rounded and fun LEAD Athens experience.


In addition to attending monthly sessions participants must also complete a group project in order to graduate. The class is split into six groups of five, and develop and implement a project that benefits the community in some way. This year’s projects included:

  • A community garden in the Triangle Plaza in partnership with the Gaines School Road Elementary Local School Governance Team
  • Launching a Tool Lending Library through the Athens Regional Library System
  • Partnering with the Jaycees and Toys for Tots to distribute car seats to families served by the Toys for Tots program
  • Developing and implementing a series of workshops for non-profit leaders in collaboration with the Athens Area Community Foundation and the United Way of Northeast Georgia
  • Creating and implanting a Mentor Athens program aimed at recruiting and retaining top talent in the industrial and manufacturing sector
  • Partnering with the local VITA program to create an awareness and marketing campaign


LEAD Athens culminates in an Oscar-themed graduation party where the groups show videos the created to showcase their projects. “Oscars” are presented to Best Picture, Best Project, LEAD Actor, LEAD Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress in a Comedy and Best Supporting Actor and Actress in a Drama.

Congratulations to this year’s award winners:

Best Picture- Team Velcro (VITA Marketing Campaign)

Best Project- Up the River (Tool Lending Library)

LEAD Actor- Mike Hodges

LEAD Actress- Deborah Lonon

Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy- Johnelle Simpson

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama- John Pirages

Best Supporting Actress in a Comdey- Jennifer Zwirn

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama- Sarah McKinney


Congratulations to these leaders on an outstanding year!


Eve Anthony- Athens Community Council on Aging

Charlie Barrow- Charles Barrow, P.C.

Clark Brown- Vickery Financial Services

Mark Cunningham- Athens Academy

Kevin DeCastro- Docebo

Louis Duhe- Piedmont Athens Regional

Broderick Flanigan- Flanigan’s Portrait Studio

DeeDee Gaines- St. Mary’s Healthcare System

Carol Gittens- Eaton Corporation

Meghan Hauser- The University of Georgia

Alicin Hendricks- Jackson Spalding

Mike Hodges- Piedmont Athens Regional

Steve Hollis- Cannon Financial Institute

Lucy Hudgens            – The Ark United Ministry Outreach

Jenna Jackson           – The University of Georgia School of Law

Jestin Johnson- Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County

Deborah Lonon- Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County

Rory Mathisen           – Mercy Health Center

Ilka McConnell- Athens Technical College

Sarah McKinney- Athens Area Community Foundation

Daniel Mosseri- Wells Fargo Advisors

Emily Nicholos- United Way of Northeast Georgia

John Pirages- Ethicon

Seth Robison- G. Michael Smith & Associates

Johnelle Simpson- Clarke County School District

Solomon Smothers- Action Ministries

Lora Thompson- Athens Housing Authority

Laura Welch- Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County

Jennifer Zwirn- Synovus