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Leadership Snohomish County (LSC) is a nonprofit that connects, ignites and develops county-specific sustainable leaders to strengthen our communities. Each year, we help experienced and emerging leaders in Snohomish County gain an understanding of the critical issues affecting the region and the stewardship capabilities needed to resolve them. Through our nine-month Signature Program and Young Professionals Program, we work in small teams with the business, government and nonprofit sectors as Community Impact Project Partners. LSC features more than 700 alumni who remain strongly invested in Snohomish County.

Inspiration from Local Leaders

What defines a community? It's not always what you'd think.

Gratitude and Fresh Inspiration

Erika Olson

by Kathy Coffey, LSC Executive Director

In the spirit of gratitude this season, we invited some of our graduates to take a few minutes to reflect on their LSC experience.

This was part of LSC’s recent Pay It Forward Campaign. The first facet of this campaign was Paying It Forward to create scholarships for those who need financial assistance to be a part of LSC. This second phase asked alumni to notice the impact of LSC in their own lives and think about who made it possible for each to be a part of this program.

Julio Cortes, Class of 2014, remembers feeling honored when he was chosen by Cocoon House to participate. “I definitely built confidence in connecting with people who were in work completely different from myself,” he said. “I allowed myself to get out of my comfort zone. I developed great connections that still exist to this day!” 

Melanie Keopraseurt, Class of 2015, was nominated by colleague Melody Schlaman, who was a member of the 2014 Signature program. Melody, who held several management positions in the Swedish PICU and EDs at several campuses, was well known and highly respected in the Swedish family. Sadly, she passed away in 2015.

Melanie said:

It made me feel like [Melody] saw something in me that I wasn’t sure was there yet. I wish she were still alive to see how far I have come and so I could continue working along side of her. I am able to see things through a bigger picture and have a deeper connection to our community.

Stephanie Arnoldin, Class of 2009, said LSC not only helped her connect to her new community – meeting people she is still friends with today – but also gave her an entirely new outlook.

When I heard about the program, I was new to the area.  I was thrilled to be selected, but I often felt like I was inadequate compared to all of my fellow classmates.  I really did not feel like I had much to offer.  I was wrong. 

LSC was my introduction to an entirely new world.  LSC helped me discover things about myself that I could share with others.  It helped me understand how I could make a difference.

We all were giving our time and what we received in return was magical.  So often we find it easy to say we are just too busy. When we actually commit our time we are committing a part of us.  You start to see what the community is made of at a profound level.  You start to understand the impact every issue has on the people of the community.  It becomes real. Their stories touch your soul.  The issues become part of the thread that transforms [us] into a community.  We move from strangers to family.  We are forever connected.  

I started to look at life through a different lens.  Being part of LSC has really helped me grow into the person I am today.  It is hard to believe it has been almost a decade since I went through the program.  How time flies!

We all need to take active roles in making our community great, staying actively involved in the issues that adversely impact the people of our community.  We cannot just sit back and wait for someone else; we must be part of the solution.  

Darlene Weber, Class of 2015, is especially proud of her employer’s long-standing involvement with LSC.

Being nominated was very exciting. I had heard a lot of good things about the program from other Sno-Isle Libraries staff and was eager to go through the program. Sno-Isle Libraries’ participation in Leadership Snohomish County demonstrates the organization’s commitment to staff development and building connections in the community.

I now have an increased awareness and understanding about how Sno-Isle Libraries’ strategic priority to build civic engagement directly connects to what other organizations are doing in our communities.

Learning more about the issues in our communities – and the individuals and organizations addressing those issues – has helped me build connections both professionally and personally. 

Chris Eck, who will graduate from LSC in the spring, already knows this experience is making a difference. 

I’m just starting the program, but already feel the exposure to the presenters, the material, and my fellow participants are helping my professional and personal growth. Being nominated made me feel so fortunate and valued. [LSC] is helping me view and learn more about the wider community, and to see how I can contribute more broadly.

James Johnson, Class of 2016, said LSC helped make gratitude more of a focus.

I think of gratitude a lot more than ever, even though I always thanked people. Being sincere and authentic – whether our own thirst for it or appreciation of others – this is something that no longer takes a back seat.

I learned the impact [of gratitude] and an appreciation for what people engaged in a program like this can accomplish – for themselves and the community.

Vicci Hilty, who is now Executive Director, Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County, graduated from LSC in 2004.  She was also recognized this year as an LSC Distinguished Alumna.

Being nominated was a little frightening, but exciting. I knew it would be educational and fun. Guess what, I was right!

I gained knowledge, people to reach out to, a true sense of community, teamwork, and gratitude.

It helped me prepare for my job as Executive Director years later at DVS. It opened my eyes to the many blessings and issues in a community and helped me to see firsthand that we can make change.  

Vicci was nominated for LSC by now-judge Laura Van Slyck. Vicci said, “I will never forget her recommendation and belief in me.”

LSC inspires each class member on an individual level. We also observe recurring themes: for instance, new insight, expanded connection, and fresh inspiration. Individual leaders decide where to go from there. It’s dynamic and sometimes surprising.

Maybe these stories will help inspire you!

And, if you’re moved to Pay It Forward this season, please click here to give. With your support, talented professionals will continue to embark on this journey, forging connections to create and lead our community into the future.