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The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and Worcester Community Foundation announced Tuesday 26 rising professionals chosen for a leadership development program.
Selected from more than 60 applicants, the chosen professionals include a diverse group of men and women from Central Mass. from both the public and private sectors who represent a variety of cultural and educational backgrounds.
The nine-month program, dubbed Leadership Worcester, begins in September with an overnight retreat and monthly sessions will explore topics critical to the Worcester area, including education, economic development, local government, health, community safety, creativity and urban environment, according to a press release from the chamber.
Those chosen are:
Diana Batista Katherine Calano Vaughn Calhoun Ryan Canuel Sarah Connell Kim Davenport Patrick DiGregorio Peter Dunn Marco Estrella Casey Freeman Meaghan Hardy-Lavoie Scarlett Hoey Erin Jansky Joel Kent Noah Ligetti Andrew Madigan Heather Mangione Laura Marotta Ryan Matson Derek Olson Angelo Padin Christina Santana Amie Shei Kira Terrill Alexis Travis Jessica Walsh
By Aaron Nicodemus
For more than two decades, Leadership Worcester was a program sponsored by the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce that fostered midcareer professionals to become leaders in city government, nonprofit, education and business communities.
Year after year, from the early 1970s through about 2003, the program encouraged people to step up, help out, say something and do something to improve the lives of Worcester's citizens. Participants in Leadership Worcester were encouraged to participate in civic life by running for office, by leading companies, by volunteering, by teaching and by serving on the boards of nonprofits. They created mini-networks of acquaintances that could be tapped to overcome future community problems. I understand at least two prominent participants in Leadership Worcester later married and became a city power couple.
The program had been a leading community group in its heyday, like when it sponsored one of the first mayoral debates in 1987, when the city switched to the mayoral form of government for the first time.
In researching this column, I found a wonderful little newspaper story from 1980 that ran deep inside the Evening Gazette which discussed a rare moment when Leadership Worcester found controversy.
One of Leadership Worcester's meetings that year was held at the private Worcester Club, which at the time had separate entrances for men and women. The women in Leadership Worcester, who were already successful in their chosen professions, were none too pleased when the club's secretary called them before the meeting to ask that they use the side entrance, also known as the "ladies' entrance."
I recognized several of the people quoted in the story. One was Leah Lamson, then a reporter at the Evening Gazette who would, many years later, become the paper's editor. Another was Roberta Schaefer, then an assistant professor of political science at Assumption College who would later become the founding executive director of the Worcester Research Bureau and led it for many years.
For the record, Ms. Lamson declared she was more surprised than offended about being asked to use the ladies' entrance. Ms. Schaefer said she thought the kerfuffle was "kind of silly."
More to the point for Leadership Worcester, both women became leaders in the Worcester community, which speaks to the program's efficacy. I'm sure there are dozens of similar success stories of Leadership Worcester participants.
But sometime in the early 2000s - the last class I could find a newspaper clip about was in 2003 - Leadership Worcester quietly folded. While it was shuttered largely due to a lack of funding, it also suffered from a lack of interest.
When the Worcester chamber and the Greater Worcester Community Foundation sought to revive the program last year, they found enthusiastic support within Worcester's business, nonprofit, education and government communities. The program received 50 applicants for 25 openings. According to Gail Randall of the GWCF, all 50 applicants would likely have been great participants.
One of the participants is Josh Croke, whose nonprofit Action! Worcester is using the first-floor space in the renovated office space at 20 Franklin St. to connect entrepreneurial college students with local businesses.
Campuses in Worcester, he said, are mostly isolated from the local business community. His group plans to host regular meetings and mixers, so students can pitch their ideas for businesses, and local businesses can offer advice and encouragement. Companies can also use the space for corporate events, he said.
Last week, the 25 participants in Leadership Worcester 2015 met in the space to discuss their thoughts on improving downtown Worcester. They had taken a short walking tour of downtown, led by Roberta Brien of the Worcester Business Development Corp. and Heather Gould of the city's economic development office.
Ms. Brien talked about how 1960s urban renewal clear cut huge swaths of downtown Worcester in the name of progress, but ended up cutting off neighborhoods from the city center and building a huge downtown mall that failed not once, but twice. Ms. Gould discussed how residential uses were returning to downtown in many buildings' upper floors, but that many first-floor retail spaces remained vacant. Even with several parking garages within walking distance of City Hall, the downtown still suffers from a lack of parking, they said.
Afterward, the participants collected in small groups to brainstorm their own ideas to remake downtown.
I'm heartened that Leadership Worcester is back, to build a pipeline of future Worcester leaders who will, presumably, open whichever door they choose - or figure out a way around or through the closed ones.
The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and Greater Worcester Community Foundation, co-sponsors of Leadership Worcester, announced today that the application process for the 2016-17 class is now open. Application deadline is May 2, 2016. Now in its second year, the program will identify motivated individuals who aspire to take an active leadership role in Worcester and the surrounding towns and are interested in learning and honing new leadership skills for the long-term benefit of the community.
Worcester Telegram & Gazette | April 21, 2018
By Paula J. Owen
WORCESTER – After a brief hiatus, Leadership Worcester is back, creating a pipeline of professionals invested in the future of Worcester through education programs to help them gain a different perspective of problems facing the city while gaining a network of colleagues.
Ann T. Lisi, president and CEO of the Greater Worcester Community Foundation that co-sponsors Leadership Worcester with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, said participants meet with community leaders to gain a firsthand understanding of critical issues facing Worcester while also building professional skills that contribute to civic advancement.
“They meet with leaders and discuss current dilemmas that face our community and visit places from behind the scenes,” Ms. Lisi said.
It was a thriving program of the chamber for years, she said, that was re-established as a partnership between the two organizations in 2014.
“The foundation is interested in community development and we’re here to support the people and organizations to continuously build up the strengths of the community,” Ms. Lisi said. “The chamber is committed to fostering long-term business development and attracting and retaining private businesses. Together we have this shared goal.”
Leadership Worcester is accepting applications for the 2018-19 class, which will meet for full-day sessions each month to dive into an issue important to the community, and also hear about challenges and successes in other cities, she said. The application deadline is May 21.
The nine-month program begins in September with an overnight retreat. Daylong sessions are held monthly from October to May, with each session exploring a regional topic to help participants develop an understanding of the critical issues impacting the Central Massachusetts economy, government and quality of life.
The application process is competitive, Ms. Lisi said, and participants are typically employer-nominated with their employer paying most of the cost of the $2,500 tuition. Participants represent all sectors of the community — business, nonprofit, education and government, she said.
A selection panel considers several factors including leadership potential, the level of commitment the applicant has to the community and an indication of wanting to remain in the city long-term.
Karen L. Pelletier, vice president of operations and director of education and workforce development at the chamber, said the panel identifies promising new professionals who aspire to take an active leadership role in the Worcester community and are interested in learning and honing new leadership skills for the long-term benefit of the community.
“We are hoping to get a good cross-section of industries with participants who are representative of the community,” Ms. Pelletier said. “My goal is to have as many applicants as possible.”
Only about 25 slots are available, however.
At graduation, each participant reads a declaration statement, Ms. Pelletier said.
“It is so inspiring, what they are doing moving forward to help the community,” she said. “It is very powerful, to see them make that switch to see themselves as a contributor and someone who has a role to play here.”
The goal, she added, is for participants who are in leadership roles in the city to get more involved and become more invested and to think more broadly about challenges so they can be part of the solution.
Patrick T. Maloney, president of the Nativity School of Worcester, participated in Leadership Worcester in 2016-2017 with the support of the school, after he was encouraged to apply, he said.
Some of the most memorable sessions, he said, were on education, health, local government, economic development and law.
“For me, it was an opportunity to learn more about my hometown and the city that I love, while also building relationships with other amazing young professionals from all walks of life,” Mr. Maloney said. “It’s these relationships that have helped to foster the collaborative spirit that has permeated Worcester for years. I made many new friends who I’ve been proud to partner with to make this city a better place for my family.”
Marco Estrella, business operations manager at Unum, said the class made a difference with his “executive presence” and his ability to ask the right questions.
“My employer paid a portion,” he said. “I applied to the program to galvanize my leadership acumen, contribute ideas, and learn from the experiences of expert leaders from a variety of sectors in Worcester.”
The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and Greater Worcester Community Foundation, co-sponsors of Leadership Worcester, announced today that the application process for the 2018-19 class is now open. In its fourth year, the program identifies promising new professionals who aspire to take an active leadership role in the Worcester community and are interested in learning and honing new leadership skills for the long-term benefit of the community.
“It’s an exciting time of revitalization for the entire Worcester community,” said Timothy P. Murray, president and CEO, Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Identifying and cultivating strong leaders from all sectors in Central Massachusetts is an important component to that rejuvenation - one that the Worcester Regional Chamber and the Greater Worcester Community Foundation take pride in.”
Leadership Worcester participants gain a first-hand understanding of critical issues facing Worcester while also building professional skills that contribute to civic advancement. The program is seeking applicants who bring a proven record of leadership capacity, an eagerness to have a personal impact, and a passion and commitment to making Worcester a leading, livable city. The nine-month program begins in September with an overnight retreat. Daylong sessions will take place monthly from October to May. Each session will explore a regional topic and will help participants acquire an understanding of the critical issues impacting Central Massachusetts economy, government, and quality of life. Participants in Leadership Worcester represent all sectors of the community—business, non-profit, education, and government.
“Leadership Worcester cultivates relationships across a wide range of sectors, industries and backgrounds,” said Ann T. Lisi, president and CEO, Greater Worcester Community Foundation. “By better understanding the role that each participant plays in the community, they can collaboratively explore civic leadership and why it is critical to our region’s success.”
Applications are available online at www.leadershipworcester.com and are due on Monday, May 21, 2018. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance in late June. A limited amount of scholarship assistance has been made possible through the generosity of several Worcester foundations, including Fuller Foundation, Stoddard Charitable Trust, Hoche-Scofield Foundation, George I. Alden Trust, the Fletcher Foundation, and other private donations.
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