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Op-Ed: Looking to Make an Impact on Northern Kentucky?

Author and essayist Phyllis Theroux, in her memoir The Journal Keeper, wrote, “An enlightened person raises the level of consciousness of the entire community.”

For over 35 years, the Leadership Northern Kentucky (LNK) program has helped to enlighten thousands of folks who live, work, and play in our Northern Kentucky region – and better communities have emerged as a result.

LNK participants are selected from a variety of job sectors and civic interests, and provided substantive education by industry leaders across a diverse range of topics, including economic development, education, government, and inclusive leadership. In addition to personal and professional development, each class also selects and completes a “hands-on” project aimed at supporting and improving the community.

“When I first considered LNK, I was intimidated by the level of professional success and expertise I expected my classmates might have,” said Dustin DiChiara, owner/operator of Chick-fil-A (Florence) and a 2011 LNK Graduate. “Reality was refreshing, when I found a group of caring and dedicated people from all across the region who had the same goal as me.  We all wanted to learn more about the Northern Kentucky community and how we could make it a better place.”

For DiChiara, the impact of LNK was profound and lasting. Within three years of completing the program as a graduate, and after volunteering in various roles, DiChiara was selected as the Chair of the nine-month program. He and his Chick-fil-A franchise have remained active sponsors of the program, and multiple of its employees have since participated as Class members themselves.

“Giving back to LNK by serving as Chair was a humbling and rewarding experience,” he said.  “Those of us who help lead an LNK class are constantly trying to improve the experience.  The more immersive and well-rounded we can make the experience, the better positioned the class members are to tackle our region’s challenges.”

As incoming Chair for LNK 2017, I know that neither Dustin’s perception of the program, nor his experiences as a class member and volunteer, are unique.  The Class members may call this region their own, but they quickly learn through LNK that our region has strengths and assets all around which are unnoticed or which are being underutilized.  They learn, too, that the challenges of making Northern Kentucky community better can be met through innovative collaboration, through imaginative and intentional leadership, and through sheer force of dedicated talent,” explains Jason Reed of Edmondson & Associates.

And, continues Reed, classes have proven themselves time and again collectively prepared to tackles emerging and existing problems.  The LNK 2014 Class renovated a home for expectant mothers battling addiction, providing a safe place for mother and child to begin live anew.  A year later, LNK 2015 created and outfitted Northern Kentucky’s first “Makerspace,” engaging the creative minds of young students across the region in the study of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.  As I write, the Class of 2016 is working hard to develop the “River Cities Relay,” a late-summer event aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles, set against the backdrop of our gorgeous river communities.

The future of our Northern Kentucky community is bright.  It can be made brighter if we continue to identify and develop tomorrow’s leaders, today.  Leadership Northern Kentucky is leading that effort, and I am proud to be a part of the great work being done by so many.  Applications for LNK 2017 are being accepted now – why don’t you join us? Nominations for the program are being accepted until May 12th here: web.nkychamber.com/cwt/external/wcpages/wcwebinput/lnknominate.asp.

Op-Ed by Carla Landon