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Grabbing the reins of local leadership

The newest class of Leadership Ohio Valley kicked off its program year this weekend, as you’ll probably have noted by reading today’s newspaper.

Leadership Ohio Valley is offered through the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce, under the auspices of its Education Committee.

As always, for a matter of transparency, I’m a member of the chamber’s board of directors and chair the Education Committee. I also am a 2008 graduate of this particular program when it was known as Leadership Weirton.

The Leadership program has meant different things to different people during its 27-year history. Its alumni include big names in the our local communities, with business owners, the heads of local charities, government officials and more having taken part over the years.

Each year, participants are provided with an opportunity to learn more about different aspects of our area, including its education system, its governments, its healthcare offerings, efforts to develop its economy, and local history and culture. They also must find ways to volunteer and work together on a project to benefit the area in some way.

Just about everything they do is up to them, too. They are not put into a room and lectured to for hours on end. The class actually plans each session. They decide what they will do and where. That helps to make this a unique experience because no two years are the same.

As with any program the chamber offers, there is an element of networking involved. Participants meet individuals they may never have otherwise had the opportunity, getting to know them and building relationships which can benefit them both personally and professionally.

These are connections which can last a lifetime.

More than that, though, Leadership is about finding ways for individuals to find that spirit of involvement in themselves, to step out of their comfort zone and to look for ways they can contribute to their communities.

You might notice I said “communities” there and not specifically Weirton. That’s because, even though the Weirton chamber puts the program together, it is not exclusively focused on that city. In fact, that’s part of the reason the name was changed to Leadership Ohio Valley. The chamber wanted to reinforce that it wasn’t just about Weirton.

Leadership is open to anyone from any town in our area. You don’t even have to be from West Virginia, for that matter. Participants and sponsoring businesses in the current class are from Hancock and Brooke counties in West Virginia, and Jefferson County in Ohio.

It’s not about the geography of the program. It’s about building connections, working together and giving back in order to make our area that little bit better.

There is a diversity that will bring together vast points of view and experiences, and I’m sure they will all learn from each other and broaden their horizons as a result.

From what I’ve seen so far, this year’s class is a good group. They seem to be coming together well, and I look forward to seeing where they go from here.

Each class is different, after all, and their results will depend on how much they put into it.

This year’s class is just getting started, and will last through June. But that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start thinking about next year.

A list of suggested participants has been started, and if you think the program is something you might be interested in experiencing, I highly recommend contacting the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce to learn more.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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