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Shape of things to come

If one isn’t a born leader, he or she can certainly be trained to become one in Nevada County. That’s the precise purpose of Nevada County Community Leadership Institute for the past decade.

Located on the Sierra College Nevada County campus, the leadership institute trains 25 participants every year over a 10 month period in a variety of topics including local government, business, industry and economy, education, and criminal justice.

“It actually provides three components,” said Michael Colantuono, a Penn Valley lawyer, who’s enrolled in this year’s class. “One is formal training in leadership skills, the second is a day-long in-depth study of life, culture, and politics in the community and finally it is a means to develop a network of relationships with people who are active and engaged in community life.”



Every year the course begins in September with a two-day retreat, according to Yvonne Bartlett, the institute facilitator. Thereafter, classes are held every third Friday of the month till the following June, except December during recess.

“Leadership institutes are common and in their usual form, they are a thinly-veiled attempt by the chamber of commerce to develop business people as candidates for public office,” Colantuono said. “But given the unique character of western Nevada County, this program is a collaboration of the (Grass Valley/Nevada County) chamber of commerce, United Way (of Nevada County) and Sierra College (Nevada County campus) and it is a much more balanced and richer program than I’ve seen elsewhere.”




The fourth and final entity sponsoring the institute is the Nevada County Business Association.

“We have 200 alumni of NCCLI who are serving in leadership positions in governments, business organizations, executives of nonprofit organizations, lots of people serving on the boards of all kinds of community organizations,” said Tina Ludutsky-Taylor, who co-founded the institute and chaired it from 1996 to 2005.

“The original vision of NCCLI was to educate emerging leaders in the community about the critical issues we are facing and help them find solutions in dealing with issues rather than personalities. Also it is an opportunity for emerging leaders to meet more current leadership in the community and future leaders.”

Lori Burkart Frank, a business coach workshop facilitator and consultant, is a 2002 alumni at the institute. At that time, she was the community assessment project co-ordinator of United Way of Nevada County. According to Burkart Frank, she regularly uses the skills she acquired at the institute in her present work.

“Because each day is focused on a topic, we were given in-depth information on how things work in the community,” she said. “I had no idea how planning worked in the city or county and it’s a complex issue but now at least I have an idea of where to start. And each of the different areas in the program, gave me the sense of confidence that I could figure out where to start if I needed information.”

This year, a new feature has been added to the program – it was pilot-tested last year. The participants are working on projects – called “hot topics” – concerning the community, under the supervision of mentors.

The names of the projects are “Cultural arts event in Nevada City,” “Workforce housing,” “Improvement of park and recreation services,” “After school enrichment assessment,” “Nevada County teen web site outcomes,” – each focusing on an issue within the Nevada County community.

“It’s very demanding based on the time it requires,” Colantuono said, about the overall NCCLI experience. “But in my view, the time was extraordinarily well-spent because I gained a deep knowledge of a broad range of current issues in our community and a set of friendships that will always be with me.

“It’s important to know how respectful the program is of the diversity of viewpoints we have in our community. I’d recommend the program to anyone who wants to know more about the community or wants to get more involved in the community.”

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To contact staff writer Soumitro Sen, e-mail soumitros@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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