Kim McDarison | Fort Atkinson Online
Thirteen graduates of a “Leadership Development Academy” program developed by the Workforce Development Board of South Central Wisconsin (WDBSCW), and facilitated in partnership with Opportunities, Inc. and Madison College, were recognized Monday in a ceremony held at the Opportunities, Inc. headquarters building in Fort Atkinson.
According to Robin Kennedy, vice president of mission advancement with Opportunities, Inc. and a teacher of some of the program’s instructional sessions, the development of the academy’s programming began several months ago. Opportunities, Inc. partners with the WDBSCW through the organization’s WorkSmart program, she said, which is described on the WDBSCW’s website as a network used to connect underserved populations with services and opportunities.
Kennedy said she shared the teaching role during the academy with MATC employee Heather Kennedy. While the two find a last name in common, they are not related, Robin Kennedy said.
The program helps support workers in the Jefferson County area who have been downsized or disconnected from their employment due to layoffs and closures, among other sets of circumstances, Kennedy noted.
The Leadership Development Academy was facilitated through use of a grant received by the WDBSCW. The academy’s mission is to engage with and help advance new leaders in the manufacturing sector, Kennedy stated, describing the group as a “critical and essential workforce.”
Some 40 family members, fellow employees and well-wishers, along with program facilitates gathered Monday at Opportunities, Inc. in honor of the students who were chosen by their employers to participate in the leadership program, according to Barb LeDuc, a WDBSCW Board member, President of Opportunities, Inc. and a guest speaker at the graduation ceremony.
Among graduates recognized were: Nate Opps, an employee with Aztalan Engineering; Sandy Meyer, Ryan Nagle, Mustapha Singhateh, Josh Smulder and Lor Yang, all employees of Fisher Barton; Ryan Braun and Zach Stauffiger, both employees of Johnsonville Breakfast Sausage; Demetrius Samuels and Josh Weber, both employees of Jones Dairy Farm; and Noah Hartwig, Josh Langhoff and Tanya Neminski, all of whom are employed by Opportunities, Inc.
Along with LeDuc, speakers at the graduation ceremony included Becca Collins, programs manager and a board member with the WDBSCW, and Neminski, who was among graduates receiving recognition.
During her comments, LeDuc recognized the graduates, whom, she said, represented companies from across the Jefferson County area.
Noting her 15 years of service as a WDBSCW board member, LeDuc said that while many of the organization’s programs focused on dislocated and economically disadvantaged workers, “this program gave us the opportunity to advance the incumbent worker.”
She cited several program goals, listing among them: giving students an opportunity to learn from one-another, sharing best practices, working to advance future leaders through skills and knowledge, and finding employment in training.
Following LeDuc, Neminski, who is a quality control facilitator at Opportunities, Inc., said she has been employed with the company for six years and is new in her position as a quality facilitator.
“I have worked in many positions since joining Opportunities, Inc.,” she said, adding that she was guided by “great” leadership and given support.
She expressed appreciation for being chosen to participate in the academy, stating her definition of leadership as “connecting with people and building relationships. The words that come to find when I think of good leadership are trust, honesty, respect, accountability, self-confidence and communication.”
She described the academy as “very helpful and (it) opened my mind to different ideas and ways to be a good leader.”
She noted her enthusiasm to make use of her new tools in the upcoming year.
During the ceremony, the 13 graduates were asked to stand before their guests and peers, and received a certificate in recognition of successfully completing seven sessions held during the month of October.
Sessions included: essentials of leadership, building high-trust relationships, leading and facilitating teams, diversity and inclusion, time management and personal productivity, navigating conflict and crucial conversations, and bullying and harassment in the workplace.
The event concluded with photo opportunities, social time and refreshments.