On the evening of Thursday, June 10, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce was proud to host its Leadership Worcester Class of 2021 Celebration at the AC Hotel by Marriott Worcester. Leadership Worcester is a program of the Chamber that offers networking opportunities, training, and skill development to help better prepare Worcester’s up-and-coming professionals.
The program consists of an overnight retreat in September as a kickoff event, followed by monthly sessions on a variety of topics ranging from economic and community development, urban sustainability, government, education, health, creative community, public safety, and food insecurity from October to June. The curriculum for each class slightly varies, but the topics each year remain the same.
In years past, those enrolled in the program were able to attend sessions at a designated location and get to know the rich culture of Worcester through visiting different restaurants and museums along the way. However, the 26 members of the Class of 2021 were unable to experience that aspect of the program due to the pandemic.
While being able to explore the city as a class is a significant part of the program, it is not everything. “We felt very strongly at the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce that we needed to continue this program especially during a pandemic, that’s when the community needs leaders to step up,” said Worcester Chamber Executive Vice President Karen Pelletier in her opening remarks.
During the graduation celebration, each member of the class was asked to share a few words reflecting on their experience with Leadership Worcester. “I come away inspired, inspired by the community leaders I’ve met, inspired by the many collaborations I see happening to make this an equitable community, inspired by my fellow classmates and alums for their contributions and friendship,” said graduate Emily McCann of United Way of Central Massachusetts.
Another graduate, Steve Winston Jr. of MassEdCo expressed his thoughts on the program, “Change happens when enough people [who] have the same goals and have the same visions are put on the same track, and I feel that Leadership Worcester has done just that […] I myself can make a difference, but together we can make a change,” said Mr. Winston.
After the graduates shared their takeaways, City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. gave a keynote address. City Manager Augustus reflected on his own leadership experience throughout his many years in local, state, and national politics. In his address, he stressed the point of Worcester being a city of opportunity, as well as his excitement to see what is in store for the future of the graduates.
Following the keynote address, graduates were welcomed to the Leadership Worcester alumni network by Kim Davenport, a graduate of the program’s Class of 2018. Ms. Davenport said alumni like herself continue to grow and apply the skills they learned in Leadership Worcester. From educating themselves, to hosting thought-provoking conversations, embracing their professional network, and serving the community.
As alumni, Ms. Davenport said the group remains supportive of each other and the city as a whole. “Showing up for each other and our organizations is what we care about […] This is a special program because of the very people who are stepping up as leaders […] stay connected and commit to reaching out to each other.”
To conclude the speaking portion of the event, the Chamber’s President and CEO Tim Murray shared his final thoughts with graduates. He noted that the class’ resilience and commitment to the program throughout a pandemic is admirable and is only going to make them stronger leaders. Mr. Murray said he’s excited to see the great work that will come from collaborations of this class and the classes before them. “In light of the COVID-19 crisis and the murder of George Floyd, we need to double down on our efforts to bring people together to have hard, difficult conversations […] At the end of the day, that is the only way to get anything done.”
The night concluded with graduates and their guests celebrating outdoors over appetizers and refreshments. Selected participants of Leadership Worcester Class of 2022 will be announced July 16, 2021.
Rayana Petrone is a Lasell University summer intern at the Worcester Chamber.