2024 Blueprint for Leadership and Leadership Berks Graduation

We recently celebrated the participants of two of our Leadership United programs, Blueprint for Leadership (BFL) and Leadership Berks (LB), with a joint graduation ceremony. The unofficial theme of the event was courage, a sentiment echoed by participants of both programs.

The ceremony began with a welcome from Tammy White, President of United Way of Berks County, followed by words of gratitude from Jean Morrow and Mary Jimenez. They thanked the individuals, organizations, and businesses that supported both programs by hosting sessions, serving on panels, or providing tours of their facilities. Special thanks were also extended to Sharon Mast for her involvement with both programs.

After the 14 BFL graduates were presented with their certificates, class president Michelle Leguisamon-Tineo shared her experience with BFL. Initially reluctant to serve as class president because of her discomfort with public speaking and English not being her first language, Michelle stood confidently before nearly 300 attendees, expressing her appreciation for her classmates and the program. “But look at me now,” she said, highlighting her personal growth as she conquered her fear of public speaking.

Following Michelle’s inspiring message, the 33 LB participants received their certificates. LB graduates Kristina Kullman and Kristen Gates spoke about the program’s impact on their lives and how courage has allowed them to be the leaders they are today. Kullman recounted moving to Berks County during a challenging time, starting a new job without knowing anyone in the community, and relying on her family during her “highest highs and lowest lows.” Gates shared her personal story as a survivor of domestic abuse and the courage it took to escape. “In that moment, I knew that I needed better, not just for myself, but for my two young daughters,” she said. She also described the support and leadership she experienced from her classmates after a session discussing experiences that were similar to hers.

The program concluded with Sharon Mast, who continued the theme of courage by sharing her plans for retirement. She spoke about how vulnerability and courage are intermingled, noting that while people admire courageous individuals, they often overlook the vulnerability that courage requires. She emphasized the importance of consistent self-reflection, a practice that was encouraged throughout both programs. Sharon expressed her pride in the journey and the courage each graduate has shown, ending with six words that encapsulate the essence of leadership: “Look up, look out, and look in.”

Blueprint for Leadership is a six-week program designed to prepare individuals from under-represented groups for leadership on diverse nonprofit boards. Recruitment for BFL begins in the fall. Learn more on the website.

Leadership Berks is a nine-month program dedicated to giving local professionals the tools they need to serve in key volunteer leadership positions with local nonprofits. Recruitment for the LB program is currently underway. Learn more on the website.