WHITELY COUNTY — Leadership Whitley CountY, a program of the Whitley County Economic Development Corporation, celebrated the graduation of LWC Class 18 last week.
Since 2001, more than 350 diverse participants have graduated from the LWC program. LWC is an eight-month experiential learning program designed to empower individuals to serve and become better leaders, engage individuals in the workplace and community, and connect them with resources to continue growing as leaders at home, in the workplace and in the community.
The program kicks off with a 1.5-day class retreat in September, and each month following until graduation in April, leadership and personal development content on topics such as: conflict management, effective communication, emotional intelligence and more, are delivered through presentations, hands-on exercises and deep discussion.
“Being a part of Leadership Whitley County over the past eight months has been a great way to connect with other members of our community who want to make a positive difference. LWC gave us the means to build professional relationships with one another while digging deeply into the question, ‘What kind of leader do I want to be?’” Class 18 graduate Stephanie Bradbury said.
LWC Class 18 graduates included: Oshion Alexander, 80/20, Inc.; Morgan Booker, Ultra Electronics-USSI; Stephanie Bradbury, J&K Communications; Nick Brewer, STAR Financial Bank; Rachel Creech, Micropulse Inc.; Ryan Devito, Eagle Tech Academy Student; Kaitlin Frank, Whitko High School Student; Hodd Hathaway, Fort Wayne Metals; Karen Hedrick, Columbia City United Methodist Church; Margie Herron, Churubusco Child Care; Atalie Honaker, LT Real Estate; Sara Hughes, STAR Financial Bank; Cari Juillerat, Lake City Bank; Sam Ladowski, Bloom Gates Shipman & Whiteleather, LLP; Erin Marker, Ultra Electronics-USSI; Cheryl Mertz, Warner Electric; Sue Morse, 80/20 Inc.; Leslee Robinson, STAR Insurance; Rebecca Schmidt, Churubusco High School Student; Doug Sheckler, C&A Tool Engineering MinbeaMitsumi Group; Jonathan South, Teghtmeyer Ace Hardware; Lauren South, Choices & Changes; Jeffrey Sparkman, Whitley County Sheriff’s Department; Emily Studebaker, Studebaker Farms; Jamie Swaidner, Meridian Health Services; Andrew Thompson, Community Foundation of Whitley County; Melanie Thornsberry, Passages Inc.; and Shane Wilson, New Hope Wesleyan Church.
As part of the program, class members were tasked with working together on group projects to support community initiatives. This year, one of the project groups explored ways to engage past LWC Alumni, and as part of that effort, class members identified and invited 23 LWC Alumni to their graduation celebration. Alums enjoyed dinner and camaraderie with the class, and were presented with certificates of appreciation from the class. Alumni recognized at the event were: Baily Beiswanger, Justin Clupper, Dana Day, Brian Emerick, Christy Garau, Marc Gatton, Mark Green, Tenel Hawn, Heather Holzinger, Tina Houser, John Lefever, Linda Lefever, Todd Jones, Melanie Kellogg, Jana Leitch, September McConnell, Patti Rethlake, Tom Rethlake, Matt Russell, Kelley Sheiss, Jon Shew, D.J. Sigler and Esther Smith.
The class also nominated class member Lauren South and Mayor Ryan Daniel as keynote speakers for the evening. South expressed her gratitude for the program, shared highlights from the year, and valuable takeaways she received from the program, like learning about her own strengths and how to best utilize them. Daniel shared a thoughtful interpretation of the meaning of leadership, and challenged the class to especially practice empathy and reflect inwardly often.
“It’s been both a blessing and a privilege to get to know this group of amazing individuals, and to grow together over the past year,” LWC Director Carrie Meyer said. “We appreciate the ongoing support from Whitley County and surrounding communities for this program. I’d like to extend a special thank you to our main event sponsors for the celebration, Fort Wayne Metals and Warner Electric. Without the ongoing support and advocacy from our local businesses, this program would not be where it is today.”
“LWC has been an inspiration and an amazing opportunity for me. I finished the program feeling that there are no limits to what I can accomplish, and I encourage all leaders and future leaders to be a part of this journey,” Class 18 graduate Oshion Alexander said.