[Article reprinted with permission from Oswego County Business Magazine]

Movers and shakers, leaders and visionaries, stewards and volunteers, go-getters and doers, donors and patrons -- whatever label you put on those who actively grow and nurture greater Oswego as a community, nearly 500 of them have one thing in common: Leadership Oswego County.

For 24 years, the SUNY Oswego-administered, business-sponsored and broadly supported program has expanded the leadership capital, team-building skills and spirit of selflessness in the county through educating and inspiring a select group of at least a score of citizens a year from business and industry, nonprofits and institutions, and organizations large and small.

"Leadership, particularly at the local level, is a critical ingredient in sustaining both vision and growth of our communities," said college President Deborah F. Stanley. "SUNY Oswego is very proud to have sponsored and supported the development of Oswego County's leaders for more than two decades."

A new class of 20 diverse community residents graduated in June from Leadership Oswego County's intensive nine-month program, growing their skills in community knowledge, trusteeship, leadership, current issues and networking. The graduates (see related list) hail from Novelis, Pathfinder Bank, the county Department of Social Services, Hillside Family of Agencies, Shineman Foundation and more.

Adam King, acting radiation protection manager at Exelon's James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant, said the opportunity for community stewardship drew him to Leadership Oswego County (LOC), where he was set to became an alumnus, Class of 2017.

"I now understand how very fortunate I was to have grown up in Oswego County," King said. "Communities like this, though, don't just happen. They are the result of people who took it on themselves to leave the place better than they found it. These are the kinds of people that Leadership Oswego County attracts, develops, networks, and sets loose in our community to serve the greater good."

New director

Pamela Caraccioli, deputy to the college president for external partnerships and economic development, announced that Chena Tucker, a Leadership Oswego County alumna, has been promoted to director of the college's Office of Business and Community Relations, where she leads administration of LOC and serves on its Advisory Council.

"Chena embodies the core values of our college and its role in building trust with our business and community leaders," Caraccioli said.

LOC Advisory CouncilTucker, who joined the college as a business adviser in 2011 after a career in small business, said it is no accident that LOC has sustained its appeal over nearly a quarter-century.

"We are very fortunate to have so many local leaders, community members and past graduates committed to the Leadership Oswego County program," she said. "Each year, members of our Advisory Council present content and information on core issues, evaluate the program and make recommendations for improvements, as well as serve as our ambassadors and champions."

The council includes Peg McKinstry, decorated many times for her extensive volunteerism, who has served LOC since it began in 1992 as a collaborative venture of the Oswego County government, the Private Industry Council and SUNY Oswego.

"Each year, we look at what we can do to make the curriculum current," McKinstry said.

Gaining confidence

The LOC class meets most Fridays from September to May for all-day sessions that can include experts' presentations, networking field trips and community projects.

Ebony ColemanClass of 2017 member Ebony Coleman, a health insurance navigator for ACR Health in Mexico, said she has found LOC's curriculum and camaraderie so compelling, she feels like a changed person -- an empowered one.

"At first, I was really shy," she said. "But the more I interacted with people, the more comfortable I felt. I gained a lot more confidence."

A 2005 SUNY Oswego alumna with a master's degree in communication studies from SUNY Brockport, Coleman learned a key skill: putting aside her own belief system and really listening to another person, to try to understand where the person is coming from. That's important in her job with ACR Health, dealing with people who are often confused and frustrated about health care options. LOC helped her find her passion in life, government and politics, where the arts of listening and conciliation are also important.

"This county has so much to offer," she said. "I have always been interested in politics, since elementary school. I really loved LOC's politics and government class. … I hope to one day work in the political world -- local, county, state or federal."

Her attitude coming out of LOC is watch out, world: "Ultimately, I hope to be the future leader of this county. I've learned the county is rich with history and resources that people aren't tapping into. I hope to one day have this county be among the top 10 counties in the state."

Exelon's Adam King said he already had a master's degree in leadership, yet "still learned a lot" from Leadership Oswego County.

"This program does teach theoretical leadership skills, but it also has a focus on the practical application of those skills," he said. "Presenters from the community are involved every step of the way, speaking from experience as well as (their) education. All the while, the class is collaborating to apply these lessons on an actual project that benefits the community."

Community project

Over the years, the LOC class projects have run a gamut from the invention and sale of a board game focused on Oswego County history, to improvements to the Oswego County Nature Park at Camp Zerbe; from donating a class text titled "Johnson's History of Oswego County" to libraries throughout the county, to sponsoring a forum on the abuse of alcohol and other drugs.

LOC Class of 2017 community projectThis year's class cooperated with the city of Fulton and the Friends of Fulton Parks, planning and building a 750-foot-long gravel and stone-dust trail skirting the shore of Lake Neatahwanta.

"We built it to connect two existing trails, from Bullhead Point to the trail leading to Stevenson Beach," said class member Ashley Galloway of Oswego County Federal Credit Union.

Another classmate, Penny Halstead of the Shineman Foundation, said the project looked to the future, not only when Stevenson Beach is reopened for swimming, but also when a park for teens is built alongside the new trail.

King summed up the sense of camaraderie and teamwork that bonds members of LOC for years, perhaps for life.

"I must admit that I will very much miss it after graduation," he said. "Many of the activities performed during the course were unique learning opportunities that I will never forget. I would love to be more detailed, but I wouldn't want to spoil the experience for anyone else!"

For more information about Leadership Oswego County -- soon accepting applications for its Silver Anniversary class -- visit oswego.edu/loc or contact the SUNY Oswego Office of Business and Community Relations, obcr@oswego.edu or 315-312-3492.