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These learners of today are the leaders of tomorrow

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The 25 members of Leadership Delaware’s Class of 2016 celebrate their graduation in early December. Front row, from left: Kathryn Cieniewcz, Roopa Sabesan, Avie Silver, Christina MacMillan, Roshni Guerry, Shante Hastings, Adam Hamby, Kelly Wetzel, Joel Brown, Mark DelVecchio, Brian DeMott, Mark Smyth, Terry Strine, Sandy Strine. Back row, from left: Catrina Jefferson, Kelly Bachman, Amye McDearmon, Chris Perdue, Kristin Pearce, John Oliver, Ryan Harrington, Kaneisha Trott, Bethany Melo, Amber Young, Kevin Dumbrowski, Tim Mitchell, and Alok Patel.

by Joyce L. Carroll
Special to Delaware Business Times

Today’s climb up a corporate ladder takes more than that extra mile to get the job done. While exceling within the workplace may result in promotions or pay raises, embodying leadership skills requires a multi-faceted, dynamic approach. Leadership Delaware Inc. (LDI), headquartered in Centreville, just graduated its eighth class.

Twenty-five men and women from all over Delaware and ranging in age from their mid-20s through their late 30s left the 10-month long program with broadened minds, heightened self-confidence, and, more than the desire, the ability to make a difference in their workplace, their community and beyond.

All the participants, or fellows, were accomplished prior to their selection to the highly competitive program. Often first recognized for their leadership abilities while working toward their educational pursuits, these men and women have already made an impression professionally. Their acceptance into the program follows a rigorous application and interview process.

“We ask [candidates] three things: Do you have the stuff of leadership? Are you exceptional? Do you have grit – are you resolute, resilient?” said LDI founder Terry Strine.

“We’re only sending the best and the brightest,” said Rod Ward, president and CEO of Corporation Service Co. in Wilmington. Six employees have taken part in the LDI program. A seventh candidate will join the 2017 class beginning in February. The company covers the $4,500 cost of attending the program and makes accommodations for missed workdays. Daylong LDI sessions take place the first Thursday and Friday of the month.

“We’d be foolish not to take advantage of this important leadership program. Developing talent is one of the most crucial things we can do. It’s such a unique program,” Ward said, adding, “In terms of leadership skills, the [participant] manages projects, works with teams, and works with the speakers. [These skills] are transferrable into the work environment.”

Corporation Service Co., Christiana Care Health System, WSFS and the University of Delaware are among the larger organizations encouraging employee participation. But Strine said recognizing leadership abilities is important no matter what a business’s size.

“It is the small company that is able to identify a gem and give that person an opportunity to rise,” he said.

The 2017 session will include a dozen organizations and companies that have never had anyone in the program. Among the newcomers is 1313 Innovation, a hybrid technology resource center in Wilmington founded by Paul McConnell. The facility is sponsoring Ryan Harrington who serves as 1313’s education coordinator.

Both McConnell and Ward are quick to sing the praises of Strine and his wife Sandy. “I will support Leadership Delaware in every way I can,” McConnell said, adding, “I believe this is the most important educational program in our state,” he said.

Said Ward: “I have a great appreciation for the work Terry and Sandy have done – and the entire board. Their continuity is impressive.”

And both men have presented as speakers to LDI. Speakers, offering differing perspectives and insights, are a hallmark of the LDI program. While subject matter runs the gamut, Strine makes certain that both sides of every issue are expressed. The hope is that the fellows grow in their ability to think freely, and in areas where they may choose to produce change.

“Fellows have been in the business world five, six, seven years. They are almost accomplished in their field, but they’re young,” he said, adding their views are often narrow, shaped by friends or others in their field. This year, 135 speakers informed and inspired participants. The day’s last session, led by a fellow, offers time to reflect. More lively discussion often takes place afterward as fellows gather at a bar or lounge, said Strine, where they discuss “big picture stuff.”

While LDI graduates bring back exceptional skills to their respective places of employment, Strine emphasizes that giving back – whether it’s via a nonprofit, sitting on a board, or running for public office is a critical component of LDI’s mission.

It was that message that Anthony Delcollo heard loud and clear. Delcollo, a graduate of the 2015 program and an associate at Taylor and Cooch in Wilmington, made a successful run for state Senate in the 8th District in November.

“Leadership Delaware presented to me in a very stark, unvarnished manner the many problems Delaware faces in education, politics, energy, and the environment,” he said, adding, “When presented with that type of information, there are a number of ways to react. My response was to run.”

Among Delcollo’s priorities: finding an equitable way to deal with commercial truck traffic, finding ways to bring more resources into Delaware’s classrooms, and finding a way to reverse the growing trend of addiction, particularly heroin.

Other alumni whose LDI experience has been the catalyst for service include Kendall Massett, the executive director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network and Ken Simpler, Delaware State Treasurer. Sometimes giving back means a behind-the-scenes call to service. Such is the case for Chris Perdue, a 2016 fellow who is on Gov.-elect John Carney’s transition team. Perdue was recently promoted to inventory manager within the family business, headquartered in Salisbury, Md., where he will oversee $2 billion in commodities.

He, too, spoke of LDI’s transformative nature. “The character-building component changed me and my perspective on how to be a leader,” he said.

As for Strine, the man who first entertained the notion of launching a leadership program following a seed planted by former Gov. Pete du Pont, his commitment is sealed.

“This may seem like a lofty goal, but a realistic one from my standpoint. “¦ Leadership Delaware will transform the state of Delaware. We teach [the fellows] every day that one person can make a difference,” he said. 

2017 Leadership Delaware Class

After a competitive application and interview process, the interview committee, composed of graduate fellows and board members, selected 27 young leaders for Leadership Delaware’s ninth class of Fellows. They are:

Atnre Alleyne, Education Advocacy Fellow, 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now

Scott Becker, owner, Coastal Car Wash

Tianna Bethune, Deputy Attorney General, State of Delaware

Michael Bradshaw, lieutenant, New Castle County Police Department

Michael Curry, assistant chair and assistant professor, Undergraduate Teacher Preparation, Wilmington University

Michael Dejos, medication safety officer, Nemours/A.I. du Pont Hospital for Children

Kia Ervin, executive director, Accelerate Delaware

Aiste Foreman, director of Advanced Services, Trinity Logistics

Dennis Harris Jr., nurse manager, Christiana Care Health System

Brittany Hazzard, Intensive Outpatient Program Therapist, Delaware Guidance Services

Tariq Hook, director of education, Zip Code Wilmington

Jeremy Kalmbacher, director of engineering, Tidewater Utilities Inc.

Sarah Kenney, communications coordinator, Nemours Fund for Children’s Health

Michael Laureano, store manager III, Vice President, TD Bank

Sam Lewis, recruiting and retention manager, Delaware Air National Guard

Samantha Lopez, mentoring program director, ASPIRA of Delaware

Jissell Martinez, business administrator II, University of Delaware

Allison McCowan Esq., associate attorney, Saul Ewing LLP

Faith Meisinger-Petit, operations manager, Corporation Service Co.

Evan Park, legislative liaison, Delaware Department of Transportation

Andrea Pedicone, Project Management & Account Services Leadership, Trellist Marketing & Technology

Bonita Penn, registered nurse II, Christiana Care Health System

Kate Rudolph, administrative director, Inpatient Medicine, Christiana Care Health System

David Skoranski, assistant public defender, Delaware Public Defender’s Office

Stephenie Tatman, audit manager, State of Delaware, and Owner, Dolce Bakery

Michael Utley, fleet duty officer, Exelon Generation

Matthew Windsor, Student Ministries director, Eagles’ Nest Church

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