Young professionals from across state tour Rock Hill, learn from city leaders

Two Rock Hill lawyers included in class of 20

Young adults taking part in a statewide leadership program visited Rock Hill on Friday to learn about the city's triumphs and challenges.

The visit, part of the Liberty Fellowship initiative, was hosted by Rock Hill lawyers Stephen Cox and John Gettys, two of the 20 members who will graduate from the program in 2009. Gettys also is a city councilman.

The group toured the newly renovated Cotton Factory, the Central Child Development Center, A Place for Hope in the Blackmon Road community and the campus of Winthrop University.

But first, participants heard from two men who together have more than a half-century of experience in civic affairs -- Sam Foster and Gerry Schapiro.

Foster, the first principal at Northwestern High School and making education a top priority.

"It's the responsibility of those of us who care about our future to take care of our children," said Foster, who turns 75 on Monday.

Schapiro, the assistant city manager, described Empowering the Vision, a 10-year effort between 1990 and 2000 that helped the city chart its future after the collapse of the textile industry.

"We said, 'We're not going to compete with Charlotte,'" Schapiro said. "But to people who want to come to Charlotte, we're going to be the key ring city."

The Liberty Fellowship is a two-year program for people ages 25 to 45 who have shown leadership skills in business, private nonprofits or government. Participants attend two seminars a year, including a week at the Aspen Institute in Colorado.