Hello and welcome to one of our last blog posts of session one! I cannot believe next week is our last week together, it feels like yesterday, Charlotte and I were printing the final name tags and table tents for the arrival of our first group.  

          Breakfast this week was catered by none other than Catapult Kitchen graduate Honeycomb Bread Bakers. The warm muffins were an absolute smash.  

          The Summer Leadership Program serves a couple of different purposes for our participants; to build their leadership skills, expose them to the Lakeland community, and help them connect with people their own age and professional level. We believe that people are the heart of everything we do.  

          At this point in the program, we are pivoting and introducing characters that have had an impact on ‘making Lakeland cool.’ So, this week, we had the pleasure of bringing in the creators of the film The People Who Live There. The film highlights historic homes in Lakeland and the people who live there. Projects like these are a true testament to Lakeland’s culture. It was originally shown at the Polk Theatre in October of 2021.

          After the showing, Campbell Rice, Paige Wagner, and I launched into a Q&A session. The discussion hinted at a few underlying themes we have been hearing over the course of the past four weeks. “Leave a better Lakeland than you found it.” Homeowners in the film spoke about how they renovated the historic homes to improve them but kept the original themes of the home. I would say the individuals in the film had the same mindset, where they will have left Lakeland better than when they found it, while still honoring the original themes.  

          The film highlighted areas we had just seen on our Wednesdays together, places like Dixieland, Cob & Pen, Hollis Gardens, and Born & Bread. These are places we have built community together showcased in a way few other cities our size can relate to.  

          My mom, Kimberly Elmhorst, hadn’t had the chance to see The People Who Live There so I invited her to watch the film with us. After our Q&A we had some extra time, so I asked her to give an impromptu talk about volunteerism. She has served on boards at The United Way, Bonnet Springs Park, GiveWell, Junior League, just to name a few. Her involvement in the community is a perfect example of servant leadership and devoting your life to making a community better (I.e. “leaving a better Lakeland than you found it”). She touched on another reoccurring theme, time, talent, and treasure. Let’s be honest, because I just graduated college, I don’t have a lot of money, but I do have time to volunteer. A non-profit needs all three to survive. I encouraged our participants to find one that they are super passionate about and get involved.  

          This point was further emphasized when our next guest, Jonathan Bucklew came in to speak about his experience as a small business owner in Lakeland and how the city supported him through the opening of The Joinery just a few short months before the pandemic. Investors not only believed in him but trusted him and his vision to survive. The community backed Bucklew and continues to do so. Even a Catapult Kitchen Member will be moving into the food hall soon so be on the lookout for Blue Dog Craft Barbecue this summer.  

          Next up, Dr. Katherine Loh from Florida Southern’s Communications department came in to speak on building an inclusive and cohesive team from an intercultural communication perspective. More specifically she spoke on Culture Shock in the workplace. Dr. Loh broke down each phase of culture shock: the tourist phase, culture shock phase, adjustment phase, and adaptation phase. As we all slowly move back into the office after a few years at home it is important to be reflective of the culture in our places of employment, how it helps us and what we can do to make it better in the future.  

          After a long day in the Catapult building, everyone hustled to their cars for the journey to the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College. The Executive Director of the museum, Dr. Rich, greeted us and gave us an overview of the museum and the future expansion. We got to hear about the new exhibit, Rodin: Contemplation and Dreams, currently being installed. My favorite part was seeing the artwork displayed by the K-12 students in Polk County. 

          From there we headed to the Polk Theatre with an in-depth tour of the facility as well as a litany of fun facts about the space and its history. We got to see the basement, the orchestra pit, and the historic artwork from over the years. However, I think the highlight for many were the ghost stories told toward the end of the tour.  

          For the final event of the day, we took a tour of Tiger Town and had the chance to walk around and see all the new additions since the pandemic. Obviously, in the spring of 2020 there was not a lot of baseball playing in town, so what were the Flying Tigers to do? Another important lesson we have heard repeatedly is that of adaptation and the stadium did just that. The field was home to high school graduations galore that spring, offering students of Polk County the chance to walk in a true graduation ceremony, even steal a base while they grabbed their diploma. This was one more testament to the community of Lakeland and how as a city we do what we can for those who need help. As our social we got the chance to stay and watch the baseball game! The group feasted on all-you-can-eat hot dogs, popcorn, and concession goodies galore. We even got on the jumbotron! 

          The group we have for this session has grown so much over the course of these few weeks; they even send me selfies when they hangout on non-SLP days. I hope they continue to develop these relationships and hopefully become lifelong friends. 

Until next time!