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Leadership Pioneer Valley Hosts Drive-in Graduation for Class of 2020 Leaders

HOLYOKE — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) hosted a graduation ceremony for its nine-month regional leadership-development program, called LEAP, a little differently this year. This year’s group of 33 professionals from area businesses, nonprofits, and the public sector lined up in a parking lot at Holyoke Community College to hear video congratulations from employers and elected officials before receiving certificates. The program was also livestreamed on Facebook.

“This class has risen to new challenges that weren’t anticipated by anyone and gotten closer as a result,” said Lora Wondolowski, executive director of LPV. “As a result, they have applied crisis-leadership techniques in real time and are well-positioned to lead their teams and communities.”

Participants are trained in leadership skills by experts in a classroom setting. They also attend in-depth field experiences across the region, where they met with local leaders to explore the region’s economy, arts, and key issues. The program conducted the final three months virtually.

“Leadership Pioneer Valley is intentional is its efforts, inviting diverse participants to self-reflect personally and professionally,” said Taniesha Burton of Baystate Health, class of 2020 speaker. “It provided the opportunity to obtain invaluable concepts through observations and experiences, using insightful materials to explore the process. It helped me uncover areas to improve, while challenging me to press into strengths, honing them for the better.”

Leadership Pioneer Valley LEAP graduates worked in teams during the program with area nonprofits. Projects included creating a business plan for Greenfield Community College’s Food Pantry, organizing a signature fundraiser for Each Moment We Are Alive, organizing public support for an affordable-housing unit with One Holyoke, creating planning and promotion tools for the Springfield Central Cultural District, and diversifying the constituencies and offerings of MassAudubon’s Arcadia Sanctuary. The projects are designed to be in-depth, hands-on experiences that put the LPV curriculum into action for the benefit of communities in the Pioneer Valley. The majority of teams changed their projects to meet the changing needs of organizations in light of COVID-19.

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