See Destin from beyond the beach as part of chamber leadership class

Matt Algarin, Going Forward
As part of the Hurlburt Field tour, the Destin Forward class was allowed to try on the gear and see some of the weapons our military uses during combat. Destin Area Chamber of Commerce employee and Destin Forward classmember Suzy Nicholson Hunt was gung ho.

About this time last year, I was getting ready to begin the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce's Destin Forward Leadership class.

Initially, I wasn't sure what to expect from the 10-month program that is designed to "provide a hands-on learning experience" into the issues facing Destin.

Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical at first. After writing about city government for the past three years, I considered myself to be “in the know.”

To be completely honest though, I didn't know as much as I thought I did, and I quietly ate my humble pie without hesitation.

For those of you who know me, I'm a pretty outgoing person. But on day one of our Destin Forward class, I couldn't have felt more uncomfortable and introverted as I sat amongst other area business professionals.

But my initial nerves didn't last long.

The meet and greet and team building exercises were designed to break everyone out of their shells and comfort zones, and they did exactly that. If you've never written and choreographed a cheer routine about issues facing Destin, brace yourself.

I already knew I couldn't dance, but I now know that professional cheerleading is not in my future either.

As part of the Destin Forward class, participants are immersed into the community and introduced to the civic leaders, politicians and business owners that make the wheels turn through a series of themed classes. They include: waterways day; tourism day; economic development day; arts, culture and non-profit day; environmental day; city of Destin day; a trip to Tallahassee; and the final class is voted on by participants.

Our class chose to tour Hurlburt Field. Let me tell you, I can not even begin to describe how much we learned and how exciting it was to see behind the gates. And if you have never been inside an AC-130, wow. Talk about impressive.

No matter the class or the speaker, there was so much knowledge to absorb. At the end of each session, we were tasked with sharing something we had learned throughout the day, and much to my surprise there was never much overlap.

I feel safe in speaking for my fellow classmates when I say that Destin Forward was an experience that we all learned and grew from.

As a group, not only did we build friendships, we came together and raised enough money to purchase a new boat for the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, so they could carry on their mission of caring for area waterways. To see the joy and appreciation on the group members’ faces when we presented them with the boat was unforgettable.

If giving back to your community, expanding your knowledge of what makes Destin tick and meeting other like-minded professionals sounds like a challenge and opportunity you would be interested in, the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce is currently accepting applications for the upcoming Destin Forward Class.

To learn more about the program call the chamber of commerce at 837-2711 or visit their website at www.destinchamber.com.

Personally, I learned more in that 10-month period about myself and my community than I had anticipated. Like I said, I was skeptical at first, but looking back I can't say enough about my experience and my classmates.

Want to Join?

The deadline to sign up for the upcoming Destin Forward Leadership Class is July 22. For more information contact the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce at 837-2711.