In just six months, I have been lucky enough to learn more about the county than I had in the 30-plus years I have resided here. Thanks to Leadership Howard County’s (LHC) connections and time-consuming coordination, I have gone beyond my circle of everyday activities in the western part of the county and gained a behind-the-scenes view of at least a dozen of Howard County’s most iconic organizations through the program’s Learning Enhancement component.

From learning about the valuable services offered by Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center, Gilchrist, Success in Style and HopeWorks and how I could contribute my resources and time, to an inside look at the mind-boggling programs that are going on right here in Howard County at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Maryland University of Integrated Health, the Mall in Columbia and Merriweather Post Pavilion, I have gained an amazing appreciation for what makes our county so great.

I have also become a better citizen by understanding our county’s history through my visit to the Farm Heritage Museum and by simply learning the proper methods to dispose of our trash and recycling items and the challenges that the county’s landfill and recycling center face. Of course, my police ride-along experience on an active Saturday night monopolized our Thanksgiving dinner conversation, and I am sure that my upcoming visits to the Department of Corrections in Jessup and the National Security Agency at Fort Meade will do the same at our next family gathering.

As you can see, through these “field trips,” as I jokingly call them, I have zigzagged across the county to various geographic areas using my nav system and found some terrific hidden gems, such as great family-owned coffee shops and businesses, along the way. In short, there is no comparison in reading about these wonderful organizations in the weekly Howard County Times and seeing firsthand the passion and the work ethic that makes them so successful and such a valuable asset to the place we call home — Howard County.

I am glad that Leadership Howard County offers access to these on-site opportunities as part of Leadership Premier; it is definitely a perk.

Jackie Breeden is a member of the Leadership Premier Class of 2018.