Special to the Journal
The Chick-fil-A at Albany Square has stepped out of the box to make an emotional connection with the community that it serves. Owner-operators K.J. and Anna Wari, along with their outside sales manager, Lawrence Knighton, put together the first Rising Leaders Rally in Albany on Nov. 9 at Darton College. More than 400 students from Dougherty, Mitchell County and Terrell counties attended.
Each year, the Waris attend a Chick-fil-A operators’ seminar, where they hear from some of the country’s top leaders. “At the end of the event, we always return to Albany refocused, reenergized, and ready to take on the challenges and opportunities of the coming year,” K.J. Wari said.
The goal of the Rising Leaders Rally was to equip attendees with leadership practices that can be immediately applied in their lives, homes, schools, and also in their future endeavors. “Because some of the most promising leaders of tomorrow can be found right here among us, it is our desire to invest in our local high school students and do for them what our Chick-fil-A operator’s seminar does for us on a yearly basis,” K.J. Wari said.
Jerry Southerland, senior business consultant for Chick-fil-A’s corporate office, served as the moderator, keeping the students enthused and excited throughout the three-hour session. Lauren Thigpen, marketing representative from Chick-fil-A’s corporate office, also was on hand. Capt. Kenneth Bevel, logistics operations officer at the Marine Corp Logistics Command Center in Albany and a Fireproof movie star, shared leadership insight.
Phil Orazi, senior director of training and development for Chick-fil-A’s corporate office, provided a thorough understanding of leadership during his presentation. Then, a student panel facilitated by Outside Sales Manager Lawrence Knighton allowed students the opportunity to share their views on the importance of leadership.
Kentavius Haynes from Mitchell County High School was the rally student speaker at the event. He was selected from a group of students who submitted essays on “Identifying and Overcoming Our Generation’s Obstacles as Rising Leaders.”
The Waris say they plan to make the event an annual event and that they will institute Rising Leaders Rally scholarships.