SCHERERVILLE | “Leaders show up.”
That motto of the South Shore Leadership Center’s Leadership Northwest Indiana program was clearly demonstrated Friday at Andorra Restaurant during the graduation celebration for the organization’s 35th class.
The 46 class members showed up to share stories of their 10-month journey through the LNI program, which is dedicated to educating region leaders on important issues in Northwest Indiana while promoting leadership development.
During the impact session prior to lunch, they also explained how the LNI program has influenced their own leadership and how they will use these lessons personally and professionally.
A number of the graduates who are in law enforcement spoke about the negative influences they see on the streets and affecting those people who are in the criminal justice system. Yet each said the LNI program taught them there are many positives in Northwest Indiana.
“Somebody has to teach how to be good parents. We all need to be good parents to all of our children, all the children out there – correct and encourage them. The most powerful thing I’m taking away from this experience is you,” said Caren Jones of Gary, former Lake County Jail warden and currently interim executive director of the YWCA of Northwest Indiana.
Larry Bucher, of Valparaiso and owner/operator of Bucher Farms, said he had become “a leader who had gotten lazy. This program has served as a motivator to get me back.
“Now I want to be a resource for people who don’t know the difference between organic and GMOs, to help them sort out what’s marketing and what’s real,” Bucher said.
Sue Bennett, of Porter and a federal park ranger with the National Park Service for 20 years, said the LNI program has focused her efforts as chief of interpretation and education at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
A longtime champion of clean water and clean air, Bennett said not everything has been done properly in the past. However, she said, “There’s a saying that ‘When I know better, I do better’. You have helped me know better so I’ll do better. Thank you for that gift. It’s a treasure.”
Tony Sidone, of LaPorte, said the LNI program “is forcing me to plug back in, to jump in feet first.”
A continuing lecturer in economics at Purdue University North Central, Sidone said he will now refocus his attention to veterans in such areas a workforce development and mental health services.
“You have motivated me to do that again,” Sidone said.
Keith Kirkpatrick, president and CEO of the South Shore Leadership Center, congratulated the group on completing their 10-month course and encouraged them to continue to find their niche.
“Every kind of leadership is important,” Kirkpatrick said. “Don’t undervalue it ever.”