WY Charles SmithOn Wednesday, January 8, Charlie Smith of Lander, participated in the graduation ceremony for the inaugural class of AARP’s Volunteer Leadership Institute or VLI.    He was joined by 22 other exceptional volunteers from all across the country.

VLI is a rigorous and innovative training opportunity launched by AARP in December 2012 to mobilize highly skilled and motivated AARP volunteers to the next level of volunteer leadership.  The first class met both in person and virtually over a 13-month period to build their leadership strengths in one of three chosen “tracks” – advocacy, community outreach or external representation.

AARP is one of the leading volunteer organizations in the nation, with more than 55,000 active volunteers.  Many of them, according to Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond, have the skills and the desire to do even more.  “VLI is an investment in our volunteers – providing resources and opportunities for innovation to take volunteers with proven leadership ability to a new level.  I know of no other organization has created this type of volunteer development experience.”

The graduation of the VLI’s first class of participants is a critical step forward for AARP as an organization.  “We have an ambitious social change agenda aimed at empowering people 50+ to enjoy the way they live and work today, while reaching their goals for tomorrow” said LeaMond.  ”AARP is able to meet our goals by leveraging the talents, the skills, and the tenacity of our volunteers.”

The results have been impressive.  “Charlie has been a long-time volunteer and advocate at the state level for us,” Tim Summers, state director for AARP Wyoming, said. “He was a natural choice to represent Wyoming and develop his expertise to impact our work on issues important to the 50+ population in Wyoming at the national level.”

The other VLI graduates have made early strides as well, taking on new responsibilities, such as serving on committees and task forces; representing AARP as subject matter experts at events and conferences; and reaching more than 11,000 people through speaking engagements.

AARP will host two VLI classes in 2014.  The first will begin meeting in February.

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