By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — Seven years after Hurricane Katrina and Wimbai Mutonono saw the need for the Gulf South Leadership Institute to shift its focus.
The organization formed in this region shortly after the storm, as a non-profit group here to help churches rebuild their leadership teams.
Mutonono, who earned a Masters Degree from Kentucky Christian University, was brought to the Slidell area to head the Gulf South Leadership group, and since moving here in 2008, has worked with church leaders in helping leadership become organized after so much turmoil brought by the storm.
But now the Gulf South group is moving to a new project, taking advantage of its background here to reach at-risk students who are in danger of dropping out.
“We realized most churches are back in order now and their leadership seems to be handled in-house,” Mutonono said. “So the Gulf South Leadership Institute looked in the community to see where else we could help.”
As the executive director of the organization, Mutonono recognized the ever-present problem in schools to help students on the verge of dropping out, and offering them hope to stay in school.
“The best way to get students to remain in school was to show them a career they might be interested in, and help them see there was something worth working for,” he said.
A new program called LEGACY, Youth Development Institute, will hold local seminars with a variety of professionals speaking about their careers, allowing at-risk students the chance to connect with one of them.
“We will have four weeks of speakers, all on different topics, and we believe it will encourage these students to focus on their school with the hope of moving into one of these careers,” Mutonono said.
The classes will start the week of June 17 with speakers in the field of health, wellness and fitness; followed by the June 24 week of leadership and career path development; the week of July 1 for science, tech, engineering and math; and the week of July 8 for outdoors, arts and cultural careers.
Mutonono came to the United States from South Africa in 2000, studying at Kentucky Christian University where he obtained his bachelor’s in youth and family ministry, then his masters in leadership studies.
His organization is also branching out now into providing leadership training for small businesses. The group is funded from regional churches, as well as charging for the services they provide.
Mutonono said the group had a location set for their classes, but a conflict just this week forced them to change plans, and they are now looking for another location. The group is also always seeking sponsorships for their programs.
Anyone who is interested in having their child attend the classes, or anyone who could sponsor classes or provide a room for them to be held, can call Mutonono at 641-8427.