Words by Jenny Lynn Davis | Images by Ryan McGill and Courtesy of Tana Collins-Allred
Patrick Dutton, a 2018 graduate of Jasper High School, is making waves in the world of civic engagement with his brainchild, the Carl Elliott Institute. At the recent University of Alabama Blackburn Institute Annual Symposium, Dutton presented a progress report on the organization he founded during his time with the Blackburn Institute.
Dutton’s educational journey led him to the University of Alabama (UA), where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in music composition in 2022, followed by a master’s in business administration in 2023. However, his passion for creating positive change in his community was ignited by participating in the Jean O’Connor Snyder Internship Program (JOIP) of UA New College in the summer of 2021.The JOIP’s Walker County Internship Program placed Dutton in his home of Walker County, where he dove headfirst into civic engagement, working closely with the Walker Area Community Foundation and local nonprofits, including Jasper Main Street. His internship catalyzed his development of the Carl Elliott Institute.
The Carl Elliott Institute is a unique professional development program for Bevill State Community College students, designed to cultivate the next generation of civic-minded leaders across business, government, and nonprofit sectors. Named in honor of the late U.S. Representative Carl Atwood Elliott, a distinguished figure in Jasper known for his dedication to civic engagement, the Institute’s mission is crystal clear.
“The Carl Elliott Institute is a civic-minded professional development program that creates leaders for the next generation who understand and strive to play a significant role in their community’s development,” Dutton passionately states.
Central to the Institute’s success are its esteemed community partners, which include the Walker College Foundation, Bevill State Community College, and the Walker Area Community Foundation. Participants undergo a comprehensive curriculum centered on leadership development, community awareness, and project implementation aimed at enhancing Walker County, with the core values of civic engagement, leadership, and legacy.
Dutton explains, “Participants embody these values by taking strategic action to serve and better the lives of those around them, holding compassion for the challenges facing the community, and upholding the idea that our actions continually build on those that came before us and lay the groundwork for those that come after us.”
The Institute’s curriculum, crafted in partnership with Dutton’s fellow Blackburn member and Jasper native Lorin O’Rear, is built upon six key pillars: professional development, community projects, educational panels, small group discussions, networking, and the new student retreat.
As a result of Patrick Dutton’s innovative thinking and commitment to civic engagement, the Carl Elliott Institute is transforming the landscape of Walker County. By fostering the growth of young leaders dedicated to improving their communities, this program stands as a testament to the power of vision, education, and action. WL