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Signature Program provides unique experience to shape the community

June 2, 2014 | ECF Press Release

When they graduate on June 12, these motivated individuals will join an alumni group of nearly 600 local residents, workers and business owners who form an expanding network of community leaders.

Thirty graduate from the 22nd Leadership Evanston Signature Class June 12 and applications for the 23rd Class are accepted through July 15.

highlights of the 2013-2014 program

On May 8th, the 22nd class of Evanston Community Foundation’s Signature Leadership Evanston program presented their project ideas for making a difference in their community. The projects represent the culmination of the 10-month program, during which participants gained a broader and deeper knowledge of Evanston, examined and practiced key leadership skills, and became more inspired, connected and involved in their community. “This year’s Leadership Evanston class undertook several ambitious and key issues in our community”, said newly appointed Leadership Evanston Program Director Jennifer Moran. “It takes dedicated leaders to make sure the seed of change is planted and takes root in the community. This year’s class has the skills, ambition and drive to make sure their ideas take root. I am looking forward to seeing the variety of ways the community will benefit from their leadership.”

This year’s graduates strived to make an impact through group projects. Individuals collaborated within four groups to address key community issues. Two projects focused on the use of social media, one using Instagram to capture views of diversity and another utilized Twitter as a tool to aggregate and publicize information on Evanston happenings. Other groups are working to raise awareness of homeless youth and of efforts to curb youth violence.

Anita Zawodniak, Asst. VP, NorthShore University HealthSystem, took part in the youth violence in Evanston group. She found that there is not an easy solution to solving youth violence but rather the focus should be on education and communication regarding services and programs that are available. By speaking with other community leaders, the group was able to identify the fact that there is also a need to involve the parents and youth at a very young age. The final outcome of the project was the development of a tool that could assist one of Evanston’s current programs that is already having an impact on youth violence.

“I learned that leadership is a process and takes into account the differences and nuances of all of the individuals involved in the process,” Zawodniak said. “Leadership is not about right or wrong, but rather about direction. I also found I need to have an even greater involvement in the community.”

Ahmadou Drame, Coordinator, Community & External Affairs for the Career and Technical Education Department at Evanston Township High School, was part of the Youth homelessness in Evanston group which was able to craft a project to raise public awareness about youth homelessness in Evanston.

“Community leadership requires the ability to truly listen and the willingness to work collaboratively when appropriate,” Drame said. “This is especially important in Evanston where our civic participation rate is higher than in other areas. There are many willing and able organizations and citizens in our city. When we mobilize them in the proper spaces and places it benefits us all.”

In addition to Zawodniak and Drame, the distinguished members of 22nd Leadership Evanston program graduates from the program on June 15th at the Mather Pavilion.

about the Signature Program

Over the course of the 10-month program, Leadership Evanston participants gained a broader and deeper knowledge of Evanston, examined and practiced key leadership skills, and became more inspired, connected and involved in their community. These motivated individuals join the alumni group of nearly 600 local residents, workers and business owners to form an expanding network of community leaders. Leadership Evanston alumni are active in our community, from serving as aldermen to being instrumental in creating significant local initiatives. Many Evanston non-profit and civic boards and organizations, such as McGaw YMCA, the Center for Independent Futures, Seniors Action Service of Evanston, the Evanston Environment Board, Evanston/North Shore YWCA, Evanston History Center, and the Youth Job Center, benefit from the infusion of skills and perspective from Leadership Evanston graduates. Through July 15, 2014 applications are being accepted for the next class starting in September.

about the foundation

The EVANSTON COMMUNITY FOUNDATION, founded in 1986 with current assets of more than $19 million, helps Evanston thrive now and forever as a vibrant, inclusive, and just community. It builds, connects, and distributes resources and knowledge through local organizations for the common good. The Foundation builds endowments for current and future opportunities, fosters private philanthropy, focuses the impact of collective giving, finds solutions to community challenges, allocates grants, and provides leadership training.