LEAD ACT graduation

Graduates attend the ceremony concluding their LEAD ACT class, the first group who will work to improve Atlantic City, at Adrian Phillips Boardroom Boardwalk Hall on Wednesday.

Atlantic City’s leaders of tomorrow are ready to start contributing right now.

Twenty-four city residents graduated from the city’s first Lead Atlantic City Tomorrow program Wednesday night at Boardwalk Hall. The graduates — who began their training in October — met monthly to learn as much about their city as possible and how to contribute to its future.

“They teach you so much, not just about being a leader, but about the city — from tourism to the homeless,” said Linda McLeod, a resident of the city’s Inlet section. “I know more about sewage than I could talk about.”

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The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority contributed a $21,000 grant for the program, which was run by Richard Stockton College, said Atlantic County Freeholder Alex Marino, who was a co-coordinator of the program. The goal was to educate people about all aspects of the city so they can become involved. The group heard from 80 different speakers and learned about topics such as the environment, arts and public safety. They even took a trip to the top of the ACUA’s landfill, he said.

The program solicited a diverse group of residents who ranged in age from their 20s to their 50s. There were people with various political affiliations and educational levels involved, Marino said.

“I look at Atlantic City as one of the most diverse places on Earth, and we believe our fellows represent Atlantic City,” he said. “They were civically engaged in the community and understood the civic infrastructure (through the program).”

McLeod, 59, said she wants to work more with the city’s art projects — not only to draw tourists but to provide activities for young residents in the resort and surrounding towns.

“We need it,” she said. “We need to help tourism and (provide) more activities for people to do.”

Todd Gordon, 34, a sales associate with Prudential Fox and Roach in Margate, lives in the Chelsea section and sells a lot of residential units in the resort.

“I live in the heart of Atlantic City and wanted to know better what’s going on in the city,” he said.

Pastor Alex Smith, of the Way of Holiness Temple on New York Avenue, said his church works on many community gardens to provide fruits and vegetables for local residents. Having completed the program, Smith, a city firefighter, said he wants to take the program to the next level and start a new urban agricultural initiative in the city.

The graduates received congratulations from city officials and a surprise visit from Miss America Mallory Hagan. Mayor Lorenzo Langford said everyone was very excited and supportive of this program and future classes.

“We’re all proud of you, and we know we can all expect great things from you in the future,” he said.

Lead ACT is taking applications now through Aug. 23 for its next class, which will begin sessions in late September, Marino said.

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Follow Joel Landau on Twitter @landaupressofac

More than 30 years’ experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New Jersey and 1985 winner of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s John Murphy Award for copy editing.

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