Grassroots Leadership Institute is the oldest sustained community program of its type in Clayton County.

A suburban community just minutes south of downtown Atlanta, Clayton County has a relaxed and neighborly feel like a small town, but with all the amenities of a major metropolitan area. An attractive lifestyle, business opportunities, a fine public educational system plus a 4-year college, and numerous excellent healthcare facilities make Clayton County a highly attractive place to live, work and play.

First Graduating Class Class of 2004Clayton County is a suburban community just minutes south of downtown Atlanta. Clayton County was formed out of Fayette (to the west) and Henry (to the east) in 1858 and was named after Judge Augustin S. Clayton, who served in the Georgia General Assembly. As of 2010, the population was 259,424. At 143 square miles, Clayton is the third smallest county in the state (out of 159) and the second smallest in the 10-county region, larger only than Rockdale.

The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide, non-credit educational network. Each U.S. state and territory has a state office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices. These offices are staffed by one or more experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes. National Institute of Food and Agriculture is the federal partner in the Cooperative Extension System. It provides federal funding to the system and, through program leadership, helps the system identify and address current issues and problems.

The University of Georgia Extension agents, in county offices across Georgia provide a link between the University and the public. Extension agents also oversee the Georgia 4-H program and leadership training programs in addition to assessing community needs throughout counties across the state and extend lifelong learning to Georgia citizens through unbiased, research-based education in agriculture, the environment, communities, youth and families.

The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension in Clayton County, in conjunction with the Clayton County Collaborative Authority determined there was a need for basic leadership skills development in Clayton County. In 2004, the newly conceived program secured a grant of $25,000 and attracted 18 new leaders and allowed people from diverse backgrounds, positions and interests to assemble for social interaction, dialogue and creative problem-solving.

The exact impact of Grassroots Leadership Institute isn’t captured by a dollar figure, the construction of a city edifice or the creation of public policy. But the organization’s influence is apparent throughout the area, as the program has helped educate and connect many of Clayton County’s top CEOs, educators, judges, elected officials, entrepreneurs, community organizers and nonprofit leaders.

There has been continual improvement in structure, participant diversity, selection process, program content and alumni activities and services. But one decade after its founding, Grassroots Leadership Institute adheres to the same principles and values that were established in 2004. Grassroots Leadership Institute continues to grow and flourish as this year we celebrate our more than 150 alumni and our 10th class.