When a local business or organization pops up in conversation and someone chimes in with detailed information about their mission, goals, and maybe even what the place looks like behind the scenes, you might be talking to a graduate of the Leadership Eastern Connecticut program.
“I have been an eastern Connecticut resident for most of my life, but through the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut’s Leadership Program, I was introduced to new individuals and organizations in the community that I never would have been otherwise,” said Class of 2018 co-president Kayla Hedman, Marketing Director at Fishers Island Lemonade. “The knowledge I gained will have a lifelong impact on me professionally and personally, and it is a great addition to my resume.”
Through this Chamber program established in 1987, rising leaders meet the people behind programs, businesses, and organizations who drive economic development, confront local issues, and enhance the quality of life in the region.
The Chamber’s Director of Programs Megan Gilbert has overseen the program for six years and continues to learn about the region’s people, places, and processes along with participants. “This is one of the Chamber’s longest-running, highest-reviewed programs, and it only gets stronger each year. I think one of our past participants put it best: you can’t lead a community you don’t understand.”
Participants directly interact with top-tier executives in the region, gaining valuable insights and inroads to help them professionally. The wide-ranging curriculum highlights the Chamber’s comprehensive view of many forces that affect the region and educates participants on the factors that may be impacting the success of their own organizations, helping them identify synergies to partner effectively. The emphasis on networking during the program with community leaders and fellow participants, as well as with alumni of the Leadership program, contributes to a powerful web in the region that strongly benefits all involved. Each year organizations see the benefits and support the program through generous sponsorships. The 2018-19 year is sponsored by Atlantic Broadband, CorePlus Credit Union, Connecticut Hospital Association, Three Rivers Community College and Community Concierge.
“I love my community and my home… the Leadership Program gave me a behind the scenes look at what keeps my home successful, the challenges it faces, and how I as an individual can make a difference and become more involved,” said Brenton Terry, Senior Accounting Analyst for Norwich Public Utilities, co-president for the Class of 2019.
The two-year program begins with a year of ten full-day sessions thematically organized to explore industry, government, services, and regional organizations. As a class, participants complete a capstone community service project with a local nonprofit organization. The project builds bonds within the class while they employ leadership skills to leave a lasting impact on the beneficiary organization and the community it serves.
Atlantic Broadband’s Vice President and General Manager Chap Hanley participated in the Class of 2018 and continues to sponsor employees who join the program. He cites the community service as one of the greatest aspects by paying it forward to make a positive impact: “This has helped my team to get connected to the community we serve.”
In their second year, participants plan and lead program sessions for the incoming class, further expanding opportunities to make personal connections with area leaders and demonstrate their enhanced capacity for leadership, teamwork, and communication.
“I learned so much about myself and what type of leader I want to emulate by seeing it first hand by all the great people that were put forth in the program. I was able to take a little piece from each and every speaker and relate it to who I am, the professional I want to be,” summed up Mr. Terry as he reflected on the far-reaching impact of the program.
The Class of 2019 celebrates their graduation from the program on June 19 at the Hilton Mystic. Information about the event is available at ChamberECT.com. Application for next year’s class begins now. Information on the program, selection process, tuition and sessions is available at the Chamber’s website at ChamberECT.com/leadership-program.