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Developing leaders, connecting to the community - LVB Article

Engineer David Wieller of Borton-Lawson sees the Lehigh Valley in a new light since completing the Leadership Lehigh Valley class last month.

“The biggest takeaway from being in this class is that it gives me motivation and drive to make the Lehigh Valley a place to attract new talent and achieve a brighter future,” said Wieller, whose company is based in Hanover Township, Northampton County. “It makes you realize just how special this place is and allows you to see it through the eyes of others.”

Wieller and 23 other students are the graduates of the 2016 Class of Leadership Lehigh Valley, a program dedicated to the training and development of company executives from for-profit and nonprofit organizations throughout the Lehigh Valley.

The Northampton Community College-based program, held in 12 sessions over 10 months, is designed to teach executives how to be leaders at work and in the community. It’s also intended to encourage personal development that will potentially inspire them to take on projects, be part of community organizations and motivate others to achieve great things in the region.

Ann Raines, a Leadership Lehigh Valley alumna, came on board this spring as the program manager for LLV. The class has existed for more than a quarter-century and for the last several years has been run by the Center for Business & Industry at NCC. Donna Goss and Don Robertson, co-directors of the Development Institute of NCC, have been an integral part of Leadership Lehigh Valley

“I would hope that the students feel that they have gained knowledge of self and feel more connected to the Lehigh Valley, the community and beyond,” Raines said. “Most jobs require leadership skills in forming groups into teams, influencing engagement and supporting workers to achieve results and excel.”

According to Raines, there are six focus areas for students, who are placed in teams of five and given a mentor and a topic. The topics available were education, economic development, government, health care, social services and quality of life.

The class meets once a month for classroom instruction, presentations by community leaders and excursions such as field trips and tours of sites in the Lehigh Valley.

On graduation day, students commit to taking action in the community, such as joining a task force, volunteering or becoming a member of a board or committee.

The 2016 class began last September.

“We had 11 sessions and a three-day retreat,” said Wieller, a member of the government team. “We really got to see how strong things were from an economic standpoint, and it allowed us to look outside our personal lives and get out of our comfort zone, so to speak.”

Wieller said the subjects were as varied as the Community Revitalization and Improvement Zone projects in south Bethlehem, the Easton Public Market, Crayola Factory and Sigal Museum to issues such as poverty, treatment in foster homes, literacy and sex trafficking.

“It was a powerful class, and friendships were built that we hope will last a long time,” he said.

Graduate David Williams, an account representative with HMK Insurance in Hanover Township, Northampton County, said he always tends to take on the role of leader in groups at work and in his personal life.

He said leadership is “pulling people together that have to work together toward a common goal. There are those who lead and those who lift up the people that lead.”

Erika Riddle Petrozelli, director of donor services for the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation, said she is proud she took part in the class. She met Valley leaders and got a first-hand look at situations that the nonprofit organization she works for handles in the office on a daily basis.

“Now that it is over, it certainly is a time to reflect on what makes you passionate and what issues to delve into further,” she said.

Raines said applications are being taken on a first-come-first-served basis for the next class. The cost is $2,400, and the program will accept 25 new students.

While Raines is unsure of the itinerary for the next class, the elements of Leadership Lehigh Valley remain the same year to year.

“Students must identify what is hot in the community, and each class has similar questions and challenges,” Raines said.

“Participants, as part of a team, explore what is new and important in that time and place. The program evolves as the community evolves.”

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