“What you take away from it is intristic to you and it belongs to you,” Jones said.
There are 25 students in this year’s class, which will become the 25th graduating class when the graduation pins are awarded in June. Jones said there are 740 LEADERship graduates, and it is likely that you work with one of them. The graduates come from all walks of life — from homemakers/volunteers like Evelyn Schaeffer to business owners like George Stouffer and Joan Billman. The microcosm created by each class and the macrocosm of LEADERship alumni create a community where negative thoughts are checked at the door.
“You get to spend one day a month all day with positive people who say positive things,” observed Evelyn Schaeffer. “Where else is that going to happen?”
Schaeffer, class of 1992, came into the program by way of Marta Stone, her neighbor and the first executive director of LEADERship Ashtabula.
“It was really life changing, I would say,” said Schaeffer, whose volunteer work has ranged from her church to
Schaeffer said that one of LEADERship’s intrinsic values is its professionalism, a quality that goes viral once the graduates become elected officials, volunteer on boards or put their leadership skills to work in the marketplace.
“It made an incredible difference in the effectiveness of my role as a community volunteer,” Schaeffer said.
Connections and relationships, however, are the most enduring of the benefits from being part of a LEADERship class, alumni say. Schaeffer, for example, learned about foundations that could assist her church-related projects and put her in touch with county decision makers when she formed the Telephone Coalition to address long-distance rate inequalities in the county. “Without the LEADERship network, that could not have happened,” Schaeffer says.