Our 2016 Grow Program Inspires Students and Co-Chairs

Leadership Palm Beach County
June 24, 2016


Our 2016 Grow Program Inspires Students and Co-Chairs



Thank you Rob Vargas (class 2006) and Joanne O’Connor (class 2008) for being the co-chairs of the 2016 LPBC Grow program.


Our co-chairs, along with their alumni planning committee, inspired many students to pursue fields they had not considered or reassured them of careers they were interested in. 


Along the way, the committee members, particularly Rob Vargas, also learned a lot about leadership, just by being around the students and listening to the many speakers during session days.


Rob Vargas explains below.  


1) Why did you want to be a co-chair of the Grow program?


Rob Vargas: I started volunteering on the Grow committee in 2009. At the time, the program was chaired by Eric Hopkins, who had guided the growth and success of the program for several years. Once I began working on the committee, I quickly realized that the program was doing something unique and special for students in our community by educating them about so many different opportunities and aspects of Palm Beach County. I also saw how the Grow committee was a great group of people who had worked with the program for years and were dedicated to creating the best experience possible for the students. When the opportunity to co-chair the program came, it was an easy decision. It was a fantastic opportunity to help run a program that made a real impact on the students and was supported by a great group of alumni.


2) What did you learn most about leadership during your co-chair service?


Rob Vargas: For most people, co-chairing the Grow program would most likely provide countless opportunities to learn about leadership. But leading a group of individuals who are self-starters and take their responsibilities seriously, like the Grow committee members do, makes leading the program less challenging, which is not a bad problem to have.


Ironically, I learned most about leadership through the same experiences that the students went through in the program. We tell the students at orientation that leaders come in all shapes and sizes (not literally of course), but leadership can be found in every organization whether it is for-profit or non-profit or its focus is on farming, healthcare, community service, government, small business, law enforcement, environmental or anything else.  There is no single prototype or path for being a leader. By meeting with and interacting with the leaders throughout our community as co-chair, I learned with the students about many great attributes different leaders have and that one size does not fit all when it comes to leadership.


3) How do we inspire more young people to get active in leadership roles? 


Rob Vargas: The Grow program is a great model of how we can inspire more young people to get involved in leadership roles. The students in the program learn from the leaders they interact with that people who truly enjoy what they do will usually find a way to be a leader in a particular field or endeavor. Usually, the stumbling block for many young people (and some not so young people too) is finding that field or career that inspires them. By exposing young people to a wide variety of businesses, and organizations, we show them how their education might be implemented in “real life” and that there are countless opportunities they may have never considered.


The scholarship application essays we read at the end of each year usually express how surprised the students are at all of the different careers, jobs and opportunities available in Palm Beach County.  The students often explain how the program has inspired them to pursue a field they had not considered or reassured them of a career they were interested in.  If the Grow program shows nothing else, it shows that there are plenty of young people in our community who have the potential and desire to be community leaders, but need and want to learn about the variety of fields and positions in which they can become leaders.


Rob Vargas is an attorney at Jones, Foster, Johnston & Stubbs, P.A.