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21 Graduate from Chamber’s Community Education & Leadership Program

Destin ForwardOn May 2, the Destin Chamber celebrated the graduation of 21 business professionals from its 14th Destin Forward class. During the event, the prestigious Destin Forward Leadership Award, chosen by class vote, was presented to Kayla O’Leary of Waypoint Title. She is seen in the photo on the left with Chamber Chairman Jason Belcher, FNBT Bank.

Destin Forward, a community education and leadership program, was created to help find and educate future city and business leaders.  After a retreat in August, the class spent the next eight months touring and learning about Destin’s waterways, tourism industry, arts & culture, non-profits, environment, city programs and services, economic development, and military. With the graduation of this class, the total number of program alumni is now 236.

Class requirements included attendance at several Chamber and civic functions, as well as a group project that creates a lasting impact on the City of Destin. For their project, class members raised funds for and provided volunteer labor to restore the Destin Main Street Community Garden. The restoration included a new brick paver patio and patio swing, fencing, and a newly painted and organized tool shed. The class also cleared an area and created a garden for The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast to educate youth on growing their own fruits and vegetables.

Graduates of the Destin Forward Class of 2023 include Brandon Babb, Island Time Mobile Detailing LLC; Shane Bininger, Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office; Hannah Cobb, Salt Water Vacations; Joshua Cowsert, Parrot Head Yachts, LLC; Josh Foster, Gateway Payments Gulf Coast; Christopher Funk, Pen Air Federal Credit Union; Cynthia Garber, Destin Commons; Zachary Hilton, Destin Water Users, Inc.; Ryan Holloway, Holloway Yacht Charters LLC; Emily Ishee, Scenic Stays; Caroline McCarty, OWN, Inc.; Savannah McQuaig, Realty One Group Emerald Coast; Victoria Henien, Hand Arendall Harrison Sale LLC; Brandon Nicholson, First National Bank; Kayla O'Leary, Waypoint Title; Erin Sarria, SimpleHR; Robin Saxon, Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast Hospital; Deanna Simonsen, WM of the Gulf Coast; City of Destin Mayor Bobby Wagner; Sean Whalen, Community Bank; and Tonya Wolfe, Century 21 Blue Marlin Pelican.

Four class members, chosen by class vote, will join the Destin Forward Advisory Board for a 3-year term, where they will help steer the program for future classes. Those chosen include Babb, Garber, McQuaig, and O’Leary.
Applications are now available for the Destin Forward Class of 2024. For more information about the program, please call (850) 837-6241 or email

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