Emerging Leaders Graduate from Community Leadership Institute

Seventeen of the region’s up-and-coming leaders recognized for community service, engagement

The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce recently recognized the Community Leadership Institute (CLI) Class of 2022 at its Annual Meeting held on June 9 at Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg.

Seventeen graduates, who were identified as up-and-coming employees and future leaders in the region, completed the nine-month program focused on education, government, health care, social services, the justice system, media, arts and culture, the environment and history. CLI is dedicated to providing participants with individual leadership skills and a deep understanding of the region. 

“The Chamber developed CLI to inspire a new generation of community leaders to enthusiastically assume important roles in their community while motivating participants from diverse backgrounds to be influential in our region’s future,” said Roy M. Nascimento, President and CEO, North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce. 

Mike Greenwood, Ph.D., Professor of Business at Fitchburg State University and Chairman of the CLI Steering Committee, was impressed by the caliber of this year’s class. “For more than ten years, I’ve worked with the CLI class and each year I continue to be amazed with the dedication, creativity and motivation of our participants,” said Dr. Greenwood. “Programs like CLI are important to our community in an effort to ensure a continuity of leadership, community engagement and service as our region’s current leaders look forward to retirement.”

This year’s class completed several initiatives, including the establishment of a foundation and a successful community event. 

Austin Brooks, Small Business Relationship Manager for TD Bank, presented an idea to the CLI class to support local families affected by cancer during the holidays. “My father, Russell Brooks, was diagnosed with cancer and expressed his feelings to me one day before our last Christmas together that he couldn’t afford gifts for the family,” recalled Austin. “This experience made me think how I can help with gifts for families when a parent or loved one is undergoing cancer treatments.”

Following a discussion with the CLI class about his thoughts, and in just seven weeks’ time, the class established the Russell Brooks Foundation to help make the holidays brighter for deserving families in our community. “Everyone knows someone affected by cancer and we agreed to move forward. We helped a family who lost their mother just two weeks before Christmas last year and we fulfilled the wish list for three children.”

For Christian Lopez, Marketing Manager at the Fitchburg Art Museum, bringing community services and programs for families in need was top of mind. With the support of the class, Lopez created The Community Cuts Program, working in collaboration with local barbers and hairstylists to provide free haircuts before the summer for local youth. “With the support of my classmates, local businesses and organizations, more than 65 youth received a free hair cut at the event in June and also obtained helpful information for food, fuel and housing assistance.”

For both Lopez and Brooks, the CLI was a lifechanging experience. “One of the biggest takeaways from CLI is the relationships you develop with your class and also with those people you meet along the way when you visit businesses and organizations within the community,” said Brooks. Added Lopez, “We had such a diverse group of individuals who were all like-minded in wanting to learn about their community and do something positive to help people as well.”

Community Leadership Institute Class of 2022
Daisy Ayala, Enterprise Bank

Joshua Bedarian, RCAP Solutions, Inc

Austin Brooks, TD Bank

Joseph Ferguson, Fitchburg State University (ReImagine North of Main and TDI Partnership) 

Justin Goettsch, The Arc of Opportunity

Ramon Gonzalez, Mount Wachusett Community College

Brittany Haley, Leominster Credit Union

Megan Heffernan, UMass Memorial Health HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital 

Kimberly LeBlanc, Resource Management, Inc

Bea Lee, North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation

Christian Lopez, Fitchburg Art Museum, Sponsored by AIS

Stephanie LoSasso, Avidia Bank

Hannah Pollan, Aging Services of North Central Massachusetts 

Andrea Sampson, Aging Services of North Central Massachusetts 

Melanie Sauvageau, Rollstone Bank & Trust

Patricia Wayrynen, Workers Credit Union

Marcus Williams, Mount Wachusett Community College

While the class of 2022 has officially graduated, their work continues. Class members are currently seeking a member of the community to assist with guidance related to expanding the development of the Russell Brooks Foundation. If you are interested in helping the Russell Brooks Foundation, please reach out to Kat Deal at the Chamber. 

Applications for the class of 2023 will be accepted until August 26, 2022. Please contact Kat Deal, Events & Programs Manager, at 978.353.7600 x 235 or for more information.