Local initiative cultivates a community of leaders.
What does it mean to give back to one’s community? And how does one even begin? The answers to these questions and more can be found at Leadership Tomorrow, a 10-month program run by the Greater White Bear Lake Community Foundation that prepares current and emerging leaders to make an impact.
In partnership with White Bear Lake Rotary, White Bear Country Inn, Rudy’s Redeye Grill and IX2 Consulting, Leadership Tomorrow provides targeted learning opportunities for an annual handpicked cohort.
Its financial representative, Craig Drake, says the program aims to help participants “commit to lifelong learning, [gain] confidence to step into leadership roles and develop an understanding for the inner workings of local businesses, government and nonprofit organizations.”
With community at its core, the program goes beyond the classroom. Monthly half-day sessions occur at various locations (including city hall and White Bear Center for the Arts) with a goal for participants to connect with organization leaders, create relationships with peers and explore ways to step into local leadership roles to fill the needs and challenges in the community.
“It gave me the opportunity to learn more about and appreciate the resources, organizations, culture, challenges and opportunities in the greater White Bear Lake community as well as gain contacts and networking partners,” says Sarah Shore Anderson, a former program participant, who works as a functional medicine pharmacist.
Each session has a two-part focus: leadership and community. Participants are introduced to a variety of roles within the community and discuss workplace topics pertaining to diversity, education, civic engagement, arts and culture, human services, environmental stewardship and economic development.
“Once a month for five hours, I turned off my phone and was inspired, I was fed, I was intrigued and I was learning,” says former program participant Jane Schneeweis. “Those opportunities are very rare nowadays because we are always so busy,”
By day, Schneeweis is a mediator, facilitator and consultant at Focused Solutions. Though already a leader in many aspects, she emphasizes the programs role in fine-tuning her abilities.
“If you want change to occur, you have to put structure around it,” Schneeweis says. “[Leadership Tomorrow] helped me focus on the kind of leader that I am and the kind of leader that I want to be.”
In addition to the regular in-person meetings, program goers are also provided with a variety of textual materials and resources, such as one-on-one leadership coaching and a motivational assessment.
“The outcome is increased leadership ability and passion and an increase in overall capacity to make our community the great place it is to live and work,” Anderson says.
Utilizing the skills honed through the program, Anderson says she has since joined the parent teacher organization at her son’s school, assisted the Medical Reserve Corp to help provide COVID-19 vaccinations at local vaccine clinics and has begun planning a local scholarship to recognize students who give back to the White Bear Lake area community in areas of social justice and equity.
“You may surprise yourself and find that your leadership vision or roadmap looks different from the current path you are on and allow you to open doors you didn’t know existed,” says Anderson.
Leadership Tomorrow takes 18 to 20 participants each year. To learn about its 2023 program, including applications, tuition and scholarships, visit gwblcf.org.