Developing the next generation of leaders is important for the sustained success of Memphis, and NEXUS Leaders works to fulfill this mission by providing a vital mentorship program for those young leaders. NEXUS Leaders is a 10-month program that runs from August through the following May.
NEXUS Leaders began in 2003 when a group of community and faith leaders came together to form a mentoring program. More than 850 principle-centered leaders have been trained through the NEXUS model. It works to create principle-centered leaders based on the components of mentorship, interactive teaching sessions and community involvement. “Our mission is to encourage and equip the next generation of leaders,” says Heather Hunt, NEXUS Leaders director. “We do that through teaching sessions along with opportunities to serve in the community. But the key component is mentorship.”
Participants are paired with a proven leader for the duration of the program. The protégé has goals they want their mentor to help them accomplish, and they attend the meetings together throughout the program’s duration. The interactive training sessions feature leaders from across the city in for-profit and nonprofit capacities who speak on key leadership topics. The topics have a curriculum piece, ranging from a book to a TED Talk. The mentor and protégé complete the assignments and discuss them together during the session. Participants often want to learn how to make a difference in Memphis, so a volunteer component was added several years ago. Participants together choose three organizations and the group then volunteers for those organizations during the program.
An important goal for NEXUS Leaders is that every class resembles the makeup of the Memphis professional world, meaning diversity in gender, race, religion and employment type. “We want people to come in contact and have a relationship with people they wouldn’t otherwise come in contact with on a regular basis,” Hunt says. Protégés are 40 and younger and mentors are 40 and older. NEXUS Leaders recruits protégés by word of mouth, as well as alumni and current class members who reach out to their respective networks. Mentors are recommended by members of the NEXUS network, including current members, alumni and community partners.
“The ultimate goal is to have that 30-year-old go through the program as a protégé, as an emerging leader within their profession, and then turn around in a couple of years and mentor someone younger and then turn into a leader in our city, whether that’s in a corporate sense, community or both,” Hunt says. “We’ve seen that with many of our protégés. They are key leaders in our community today.”
Each class has 35 mentors and 35 protégés. A class of 70 gives everyone the opportunity to meet and connect. A computer system matches protégés and mentors based on key information provided in the application. It’s based on the needs of the protégé. The application process for new participants opens in April and recruitment usually lasts until early June for the next class that begins in August. For more information about NEXUS or to apply for the next class as a protégé or mentor, visit nexusleaders.org.
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