SCHERERVILLE | The 39 Northwest Indiana residents who graduated Friday from the 33rd Leadership Northwest Indiana class during a luncheon at the Andorra Banquet facility came from different walks of life and work experiences.
Some have been Northwest Indiana residents all their lives, while others hail from other parts of the nation. Several returned to the Calumet Region after many years away.
All said they have been changed by the 10-month program of education, information and interaction offered by the South Shore Leadership Center to leaders from business, government, nonprofits and social services from Northwest Indiana’s seven-county region.
“LNI has been like going backstage – behind the curtain,” said Scott Thunder, of Hobart, director of development for Ancilla Systems in Hobart. “I understand the issues leaders deal with.”
Crown Point resident Meg DeMakas said the experience of LNI training has refocused her efforts to turn her Reflective Teaching and Family Folklore Foundation into a vibrant nonprofit organization.
“I want to become a link with other nonprofits,” said DeMakas who is also an adjunct faculty member at Indiana University Northwest. “I realize that nonprofits have to build relationships like with big businesses that have to give donations.”
Adam Sworden, an attorney with Austgen Kuiper & Associates in Crown Point, grew up in Illinois and graduated from Valparaiso University law school in 2011.
“A friend from Valparaiso told me ‘once you come down here, you’ll never want to leave.' Now I have no intention of leaving. This area has such diversity and opportunities. With all the challenges we have, the diversity is actually a positive,” Sworden said. “This training will help me be a better counselor to people.”
Kenneth Jania, of Munster, called himself “one of the reluctant leaders. I’ve been carried into this role kicking and screaming.” He is director of training for the Lake County Electricians Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee.
However, Jania said, “Our region needs us all to step up. LNI has helped me reach outside myself. God gives us all different abilities and we need to use them and engage.”
Making connections is what LNI is all about, said Keith Kirkpatrick, South Shore Leadership Center executive director.
The program, now in its 30th year, provides an opportunity for class participants to network with Northwest Indiana decision-makers through monthly sessions and other community forums, he said.