Leadership Winston-Salem marks 30 years

Leadership Winston-Salem marks 30 years
December 31
00:00 2014
(pictured above:  LWS alumnus Ricky Touchstone.)

For 30 years, Leadership Winston-Salem (LWS) has been bringing local leaders together to learn how to better serve the community.

The nonprofit was started in May 1984, inspired by a similar leadership program local leaders had seen in Birmingham, Ala.

LWS classes open with a two-day retreat in which a class of about 55 local leaders get to know each other. Then they reconvene for a series of monthly seminars and hands-on activities all across the city to learn about a variety of topics — including education, criminal justice, health care and social services — while hearing from local leaders in each area.

In 2006, LWS added an Action Learning component that has participants split into teams to help local nonprofits solve real problems. The Action Learning, which sets LWS apart from other leadership programs, won a 2014 Excellence in Innovation Award from the Association of Leadership Programs.

There’s been about 1,800 graduates in 30 years. A few well-known graduates are City Manager Lee Garrity, Police Chief Barry Rountree and Rev. James C. Hash Jr. of St. Peter’s Church & World Outreach Center.

Ricky Touchstone, Senior Project Manager at Frank L. Blum Construction, is one of many mangers there who has been through LWS. He said his 2012-2013 class opened his eyes to the struggles of nonprofits and the needs of communities around him.

He’s since deepened his volunteerism at Samaritan Ministries. His Action Learning project focused on iCan House, which aids those with autism.

“I had been in Winston-Salem, at the time close to 15 years, when I went through the program, and I thought I knew pretty much everything there was to know about Winston, and I couldn’t have been more wrong,” he said. “I discovered that there were things happening five minutes down the road that I had no clue about the needs of that specific community.”

LWS Executive Director Jo Ellen Carson said one of the program’s benefits is bringing together a diverse array of leaders from different communities and different fields.

“A very special thing about this program is that while we may bring 50 some people together, what we create is a mini-community in the larger community,” she said. “So they walk away at the end of this nine months with an incredible mix of relationships across all forms of diversity: employment sectors, people they would’ve never run into otherwise, race, gender, age, all of that.”

LWS Chair Kathy Stitts said she’s made strong friendships with members of her 2006-2007 LWS class.
At the time, Stitts was Winston-Salem State University’s associate dean in the School of Business and Economics, having just moved to Winston-Salem in 2005. She has since become associate provost and dean of the University College and Lifelong Learning.

Kathy Stitts

Kathy Stitts

She acts as LWS class connector, holding monthly get-togethers for her class. She said that she’ll turn to classmates for speakers for campus events or often just for helpful advice or a friendly get-together. She said the diversity of in each LWS class is its greatest strength, and that WSSU regularly has administrators go through the program.

“It was a good experience,” she said. “You’re working with a group of professionals who all in some aspects believe they are leaders, but the way we’re grouped we all have different personalities, different leadership styles, different management styles.”

Yvette Stackhouse, managing attorney of Legal Aid Winston-Salem, was also in the 2006-2007 class. At the time, she was supervising attorney for the Legal Aid unit that works with those struggling to get government benefits and took the class to learn how to better serve her clients.



“One of the things that’s extremely important, I think, being an attorney that represents persons who have low income or low wealth, is being able to know what other resources are in the area with which to put them in touch with or for us to be aware of,” she said.

She said her Action Learning project, helping Volunteer Connections engage the entire community with volunteer opportunities, made such a big impact, that she has since returned to act as an Action Learning coach to help other LWS students through their projects. She said what she learned in LWS helped her greatly in serving on the Experiment in Self-Reliance board and her current work on the United Way of Forsyth County  and LWS boards. She said she has supervising attorneys at Legal Aid take LWS.

“It gave a skill set as far looking at things holistically,” she said. “Many times I think that we can be in our own silos and think that our particular discipline is all encompassing.”

Russell D’Souza, vice president for Global Transaction Services at HanesBrands Inc., was one of two executives the company sent through in 2013-2014. The company sends two through LWS annually.



D’Souza has been through several leadership programs but he said LWS is the most meaningful. He said his 2013-2014 class prepared him to chair the 2014 HanesBrands campaign for United Way, including finding nonprofit agencies for employees to volunteer with for the Day of Caring that closes out the campaign. He called his experience in LWS “phenomenal.”

“It’ll change your life, and it’ll change the lives of others,” he said.

The requirements for the program are that you should live in Winston-Salem or Forsyth County, be able to show evidence of leadership/achievement or the desire to increase community involvement, and have the time and money to be in the program. Tuition for the 2014 class was $2,400.

The forms for signing up for the 2015-2016 class should go up early this year on the organization’s website. Go to for more information.

About Author

Todd Luck

Todd Luck

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors