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Congratulations Leadership Southeast Vermont Graduates

Back row, left to right: Nicole Kirby – Brattleboro Retreat, Christine Fields - HCRS, Jennifer Parker Williams - VABIR, Phil Trejo – Union Street School, Derek Williams – River Valley Technical Center. Middle Row: Kelley Hitchcock – The Hartness House, Caitlin Castellini – Springfield Medical Care Systems, Scott Newton – Brattleboro Housing Partnerships. Front: Kelly Broker-Campbell - RVTC. Not pictured: Rebecca Burns - Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and Erik Johnson - Brattleboro Police Department.

On Thursday, June 6th, the 2019 graduating class of Leadership Southeast Vermont (LSEVT) attended their Commencement Ceremony at The Hartness House in Springfield. Eleven participants received their completion certificates, the culmination of ten months of education, collaboration, and community impact work. Two teams presented their group projects, one of which was geared towards inspiring volunteerism in our region, and the other of which focused on career awareness exposure for area youth. Acting CEO of Springfield Medical Care Systems Josh Dufresne was the keynote speaker. A private tour of the underground Amateur Telescope Makers Museum and tunnels to the Hartness Observatory followed the event.

Leadership Southeast Vermont started in 1998 and has been serving Windsor and Windham counties for over twenty years, with the first class graduating in June of 1999. This year’s class was the nineteenth class to graduate since the program’s inception. LSEVT is currently a program of the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce; the Chamber operates as the administrative and fiscal agent and coordinates the curriculum, presenters, and session sites. The ten-month course begins in September each year, kicking off with a Welcome Dinner and an Orientation Day session, giving participants a chance to get to know each other. The class meets for one full day a month, in various locations, with each session focusing on a regional theme; topics include Regional Culture & History, Education, Human Services, Economic Development, Health Care, Politics & Government, Media & Communication, and The Corrections System. The program brings together people of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and views, who have a strong interest in creating positive change in their communities. No prior experience is necessary. What is required is a genuine concern about the future of Southern Vermont and a willingness to commit to a personal involvement in the shaping of that future.

Each year, the class is sectioned into teams, tasked with the challenge of doing group projects that will have meaningful and lasting impact in the region. Past projects have included work with area Warming Shelters, the rehabilitation of the Springfield Community Center bowling alley, food drives, a variety of awareness campaigns, an inspirational mural project with the children at Kurn Hattin Homes, and teen and youth outreach projects. This year’s class was comprised of two teams. One team chose to promote volunteerism, leading by example. Each of the team members became involved with a volunteer opportunity they felt passionate about and committed to one year of service. The good causes selected: Vermont Department of Children and Families, the Brattleboro Justice Center, the Springfield Humane Society, the Windham County Dental Center, and the Springfield Area Parent Child Center. The team created a website to showcase their stories, and to share a podcast they created that tells about their experiences (how to find the time, what it feels like to give back, how important and rewarding it is to get involved). Scott Newton of Brattleboro sums it up saying “Each person giving just a little here and there can, and does, make a difference.” The group hopes that in leading by example, they will inspire colleagues, friends, and neighbors to find their fit with worthy causes and join the volunteerism movement.

The other team was comprised of individuals who all found they have the challenge of workforce development in common in their jobs, so they chose to focus on educating and inspiring area youngsters about career pathways. They arranged an event at Union Street School, connecting with nearly 90 3rd graders, highlighting career options and demonstrating professional versus unprofessional job interviewing skills. Guest presenters from a variety of sectors, including a health care provider, an electrician, a carpenter, a fireman and EMT, a transportation and maintenance worker, a retailer, and a hospitality business were on site with visual displays, chatting with the children about what it’s like to work in these industries. Care was taken to include professionals working in roles often considered nontraditional for their gender – such as a petite woman who drives a great big truck. The LSEVT team did a silly skit modeling how to dress and behave in an interview situation, and then the kids practiced shaking hands while making eye-contact and introducing themselves. The students had worksheets for taking notes about their experience and came away with comments such as “I liked the fireman John. It made me smile when he said his favorite part [of the job] is helping people.” and “The career I would like to be in is the [Springfield Food] Co-op because it serves healthy things.” The LSEVT team has committed to bringing this event back to the school in the coming years, and every one of the presenters said they would be glad to return. The positive impact of this project was confirmed by keynote speaker Josh Dufresne, whose 3rd grade son was one of the students at the career awareness event, saying “my son came home from school super excited to talk about everything he learned – he was talking about it for days afterwards!”

The Leadership Southeast Vermont program would not be possible without the support of the sending businesses. These companies believe in their employees, and invest in them, for the sake of not only the business, but also the individuals, and the greater good of the community. We would like to thank the following organizations for sending and sponsoring participants in the 2019 class: Brattleboro Housing Partnerships, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, Brattleboro Police Department, the Brattleboro Retreat, The Hartness House, HCRS, River Valley Tech Center, Springfield Medical Care Systems, Springfield Regional Development Corporation, Springfield School District, and VABIR.

Registration for the 2019-2020 Leadership program is currently open for enrollment. LSEVT is an immensely valuable learning and growth opportunity. The course focuses on the issues facing our neighborhoods and creates awareness of the resources available to meet those challenges. You will gain experiences in this course that you can get no other way! Class participants have a shared commitment to becoming active leaders in their communities and improving the future of Southeast Vermont. If you are interested to join the program or sponsor a participant, now is the time! If someone you know could benefit from the class, please make the connection and send them our way. Early applicants receive a tuition discount, so don't miss the Early Bird Deadline: July 31st. Thank you for helping us to inspire local individuals to become the trustees of our community. Please spread the word!

Contact the Springfield Regional Chamber of Commerce at 802-885-2779 or email for details. More information can be found at LSEVT’s website:

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