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Future leaders humble themselves to graduate from program

June 20, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Thirty of Washington County's future leaders were honored Friday night during a ceremony in an airplane hangar at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

The honorees were the most recent graduates of Leadership Washington County, a program in which senior-level executives learn how to become better leaders by undergoing nine months of intensive community involvement.

Cindy Kalkbrenner, executive director of Leadership Washington County, said the airport was chosen as the spot to host this year's event to promote the theme "Leadership is Taking Flight. The Sky's the Limit."

Since its inception in 1987, the course has graduated 21 classes comprising more than 500 people, she said.

"We look for people who are willing to make a difference in the community, their families and their places of employment," Kalkbrenner said. "If we just unite, I know we can make a difference."

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In order to graduate, participants had to walk in the "shoes of someone less fortunate," Kalkbrenner said. They went to the United Way, The Salvation Army and the Department of Social Services to see what it was like to ask for assistance. Many found it was difficult because the social service centers are spread out across the city, she said.

"We found it would be better if services were consolidated," said Kalkbrenner, who added the alumni of Leadership Washington County would work to improve the situation. "We'll try to get the issues on the table and set up meetings and discussions ... To grab the bull by the horns."

Laurel Good, Tara Horst and Allen Hovermale were among those who graduated Friday from Leadership Washington County. They said it was frustrating, yet humbling to experience what less fortunate people have to go through to receive help.

"It made you feel how lucky you were," Horst said. "Now that we know better, we can do better."

In addition to visiting the various service centers, the participants engaged in other activities, such as constructing picnic tables at Head Start and driving cancer patients to Johns Hopkins Hospital & Health System in Baltimore.

Kelly Wright, a Hagerstown resident and co-anchor of "Fox & Friends Weekend," was the guest speaker.

"I was thrilled at the opportunity to talk to a group of leaders and aspiring leaders," Wright said of being asked to speak at the event. "I'm going to talk about the essence of leadership and why it is important ... How it can enhance the community."

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