All posts tagged leadership development

Leadership Venango Holds Third Session: Understanding Community Caregiving

The Leadership Venango Class of 2020 met on December 11 at the Cranberry Place in the Cranberry Mall. The third session of the nine-month program was focused on understanding community caregiving.

Joe Croskey & Kathleen Ellwood of Cog Coaching and Consulting connected with the class to explore diversity of thought. They started with a values assessment worksheet which helped the class narrow down a long list of common values into the six most important to them. The class then participated in a few activities that encouraged them to be vulnerable and open with one another while concentrating on the dimensions of diversity and prejudice.

The class then took a break for lunch and filled out a quiz on local statistics around poverty in Venango County. This primed them for the afternoon session led by Kimberly Robertson, focused on understanding power, privilege, and poverty.

Kim’s presentation was interactive and eye-opening, allowing the class to see where their own privilege is and how that affects their lives. Kim talked about the different core values at each income level and the hidden rules among social classes. Much of her presentation was based on the book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” by Dr. Ruby Payne.

This session was very interactive and had the class on their feet and participating in different role-playing activities. Many class participants felt this session was one of the most impactful and emotional yet.

The next meeting for the class is scheduled for January 8 at Clarion University Venango, where they will focus on the importance of an educated workforce.

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s January 2020 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Leadership Venango Holds Second Session: Maximizing Clean Communications

The 2020 Class of Leadership Venango met on November 13 at PennDOT’s District 1 Office in Oil City to discuss “Maximizing Clean Communications.”

The day began with a welcome from Jim Foringer, District Executive of PennDOT District 1. Jim provided an overview of PennDOT District 1 territory and responsibilities, helping the class better understand the scope of work that comes out of our region.

The rest of the morning was spent with Jill Harry, PennDOT District 1 Press Officer and Ashley (Cowles) Sheffer, program manager of Be Here. Jill shared her experience working in Media Relations. She reviewed how to appropriately and effectively connect with different types of media to provide them the information they are seeking, while best representing your business or organization. Ashley provided insights on how to use social media to connect with customers. She reviewed the features of the social media platforms to market your business. Jill and Ashley engaged the class in several interactive exercises.

Over lunch, Lucas Salusky with Identity Studio & Design took a class photo on the steps of the Venango Museum and took each class member’s professional headshot.

Betsy Kellner, Executive Director of the Venango Museum, gave an overview of the museum and demonstrated their Theatre Organ. Several class members were visiting the museum for the first time. Cindy Urban, President of Klapec Trucking Co (KTC), and Greg Lander, Vice President of KTC, joined the class for lunch. Greg is also a 2019 Leadership Venango graduate.

To begin the afternoon, Brian McNulty, Assistant District Executive at PennDOT District 1 and 2019 Leadership Venango Graduate, gave a presentation about Project Management. He provided an overview of PennDOT projects and explained the process they use, beginning with the goals in mind.  Brian then worked with the class to explore how this process could work for them with the Leadership Venango team projects.

The remainder of the day was spent with Susan Hileman, Strategic Business Advisor for Northwest IRC, on Effective Communication. The class learned about communication channels and barriers and discussed verbal and non-verbal communication and listening skills. Susan also talked about communication across different generations and cultures.

While class feedback showed that every part of the day was appreciated by participants, many cited the value of being reminded to actively listen and suggested they would be more mindful of this, in returning to work and home.

Find bios for the 2020 class of Leadership Venango here.

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s December 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Introducing the Leadership Venango Class of 2020

Leadership Venango is a nine-month program designed to identify, educate, involve and motivate individuals who desire to become more effective leaders. This is the second year of the program and there are 12 people in the class of 2020.

Learn more about the program at

Class of 2020

Kaylee Azzopardi is a Human Resources Generalist at UPMC Northwest in Seneca. Kaylee earned a bachelor’s degree in Health Policy and Administration from Penn State University. She lives in Clarion with her dog and enjoys volunteering with her local Humane Society as part of the Human Resources Day of Service. She has also helped organize career fairs and donation drives at the hospital and assisted with the United Way Annual Campaign.

Thomas Chase is a Dempseytown native and 2019 graduate of Oil City High School. Thomas is a video producer with his company, CluenMedia, and does freelance video production and editing work. Thomas also works in maintenance at Lowrey’s Auto Body and for InstaCart. He is a volunteer for the Oakland United Methodist Church, Relay for Life, Community Services, and the Salvation Army.

Damien Cherico is a Clarion native and works as a Plant Metallurgist at the Oil City Webco facility. Damien graduated from Clarion High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Penn State University. At Penn State, Damien was a member of the Glee Club and still enjoys singing. Damien moved to Franklin in 2018 and is an active member of FLEX and enjoys exploring the Venango County area and spending time outdoors. Damien plans to go back to school for a master’s degree in Materials Science and Engineering.

Saxon Daugherty is the Communications and Public Relations Specialist at Child Development Centers where he handles the media relations for their nearly 400 employees and 2,000 children in Venango, Crawford, and Erie counties. Saxon is a Cranberry High School graduate and still lives in the area with his wife and daughter. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Media Studies from Edinboro University in 2015 where he was named the Most Outstanding Graduating Senior in the Communications department. Saxon will serve as the Vice President and Secretary of FLEX in 2020 and assist with youth ministry at Venango Youth for Christ.

Matthew Deal is the Funeral Director and Owner of Morrison Funeral Home in Oil City. Matt has a bachelor’s degree in Administration of Justice from Penn State and an associate degree in Mortuary Science from Hudson Valley Community College. Prior to becoming a funeral director, Matt worked in asset protection management in retail sales with his biggest responsibility being a retailer that grossed over $60M annually. Matt relocated to Oil City in 2012, and he and his wife purchased the funeral home in 2017. Matt is currently serving on the board of the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce and on the NWPA Funeral Directors Association board beginning in 2020.

Ethan Gravatt is a Franklin native and 2008 graduate of Rocky Grove High School. Ethan works for Klapec Trucking Company as a Logistics Coordinator. In 2010, he joined the United States Army and attended basic combat training at Fort Leonard, Missouri. He deployed as a part of Operation Enduring Freedom to Afghanistan in 2013. During his time in the service, he traveled to Germany, Poland and South Korea, earning various awards and accommodations along the way. He recently moved back to Venango County and now lives in Franklin with his wife and two children. He attends Galloway Methodist Church where he volunteers as a greeter and enjoys Steelers football and outdoor recreational activities.

Carrie Karns is a Venango County native and graduate of Rocky Grove High School with a bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation from Slippery Rock University. Carrie was a recreation therapist at UPMC Northwest Behavioral Health before taking on her current role as Lifestyle Engagement Director at Oakwood Heights, where she loves working with the residents and their families. Carrie served as assistant coach for the Franklin YMCA competitive gymnastics team from 2005 to 2018. She lives outside of Oil City with her daughter and their dog and enjoys spending time outdoors, visiting antique shops, and attending local events.

Amy Keth is the Assistant Director of the Clarion University Small Business Development Center, where she has been a business consultant since 2004. Amy works with small business owners in Forest, Jefferson, and Venango counties, providing free and confidential consulting services as well as instructing programs and seminars. She attended Clarion University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in finance, and she also earned her MBA in 2016. Amy lives in Clarion and is involved with Charitable Deeds and her children’s high school booster clubs.

Tracy Lander works for Klapec Trucking Company in Reno where she manages IT, Payroll, and Accounting. Tracy graduated from Penn State Behrend with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and spent a semester abroad in Australia. Tracy moved to Ohio after graduating from college and returned to the area when she got married. Tracy and her husband live in Oil City with their two children and love the Venango County area. Tracy is an active volunteer and serves as a Be Here ambassador, a greeter and lector at her church, St. Stephen’s parish, and as treasurer for St. Stephen’s Home and School.

Annie Welsh is the Youth Services Coordinator for the Oil Region Library Association in Venango County and the surrounding district, encompassing 14 total libraries. Annie earned a master’s degree in Library Science in 2008 and oversees all aspects of the Children’s Department at the Oil City Library, as well as cataloging children’s materials for all three Venango County Libraries. She also assists with developing and presenting youth focused workshops and training new employees. Annie lives in Clarion with her husband and two children and volunteers at her children’s school as well as for the Clarion Free Library’s Friends of the Library group.

Jessica Schultz is the Marketing Coordinator at Child Development Centers where she is responsible for the marketing, advertising, graphic design and website for Venango, Crawford and Erie Counties. Jessica graduated from Pittsburgh Technical Institute with an associate degree in Graphic Design and was awarded the Richard S. Caliguiri top of the class recognition. Since graduation, Jessica has worked in marketing departments on the global and national level. Jessica serves on the board of Jamie’s Kids, a local nonprofit, as a youth leader for her church, and has volunteered with Cranberry High School’s musical productions.

Kathryn Thompson moved to Venango County in high school and graduated from Christian Life Academy. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Spring Arbor University in Michigan and spent 3 years living in XinZheng, China, while teaching at Sias International University. Kathryn is employed as the Talent Engagement Facilitator for Northwest PA CareerLink where she enjoys traveling throughout the region meeting with individuals and community organizations. Kathryn lives in Oil City and is involved with the Oil City Vineyard Church, serves as a Be Here ambassador, and will serve as the President of FLEX in 2020.

These bios were also published in the Venango Chamber’s December 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Leadership Venango Holds Second Annual Retreat

The Leadership Venango Class of 2020 met for the first time on September 12-13 for a day and a half overnight retreat.

The first afternoon, at Whitehall Camp and Conference Center, was spent exploring our personalities and how to work better by understanding what influences our behaviors.

After dinner, the class reconvened for a Community Conversation with Dan Flaherty, a LV  Class of 2019 alumni. Before turning in, the new class met around a campfire, getting to know each other.

Friday morning began with an exercise on visioning, led by Chamber President Susan Williams. Next, Andy, on staff with Whitehall, led the class in teambuilding.  Along with completing physical challenges, the class discussed the dynamics of working together.  With encouragement from the new class, Susan willingly participated in the trust fall, allowing the class to catch her from a fall.

The day concluded with the class approving class rules, learning about managing a meeting and introducing speakers and creating a class vision for this year.

Participants this year include:

  • Kaylee Azzopardi, UPMC Northwest
  • Damien Cherico, Webco Industries
  • Saxon Daugherty, Child Development Centers
  • Matthew Deal, Morrison Funeral Home
  • Ethan Gravatt. Klapec Trucking Company
  • Carrie Karns, Oakwood Heights
  • Tracy Lander, Klapec Trucking Company
  • Jessica Schultz, Child Development Centers
  • Kat Thompson, PA CareerLink Oil Region
  • Annie Welsh, Oil Region Library Association
  • Amy Keth, Clarion University Small Business Development Center
  • Thomas Chase, Videographer

Learn more about the Leadership Venango program at

This article was published in the Venango Chamber’s October 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Leadership Venango Holds Eighth Session: Energy & Agriculture

The Leadership Venango Class of 2019 met for their eighth session on April 10 at the Venango County Fairgrounds. This session focused on Energy and Agriculture. Renee Tritten, Communications Supervisor for Central Electric Cooperative (CEC) and member of the Chamber’s leadership committee, had a full day planned for the class.

The session began with Larry Brink, System Engineer from CEC, discussing the alternative energy initiative and the pros and cons of various energy sources. He explained that in 2018 the United States was still 64% dependent on fossil fuels, 19% dependent on nuclear power and only 17% dependent on renewable resources. The class next heard from Bill Fesenmeyer, Senior System Engineer at CEC. Bill spoke on the energy industry, reliability, and grid security. Bill explained the different types of grids for areas from cities to rural communities.

Jeff Fowler, Senior Extension Educator for the Penn State Cooperative Extension, introduced the Extension to the class and provided an overview and history of the Venango County Fairgrounds and 4H Program. Jeff is passionate about the program and the life skills students learn through their 4H projects and classes taught by the Extension. He then led the class on a tour of the Fairgrounds.

Following lunch, the class heard from Dan Brockett of the Penn State Extension Program, who spoke on the oil and gas industry and its impact in Venango County. The class discussed the new cracker plant in Monaca and its effect on the economy and the environment.

Warren Thomas, owner of Baytree Farm in Emlenton, then spoke on local agriculture opportunities. He emphasized the importance of knowing where your food comes from and how much work goes in to each crop. Warren recommended supporting local farmers through community-supported agriculture (CSA) and being mindful of the amount of food we waste. 

Finishing up the day was Adam Cook, CEO of the Franklin and Grove City YMCAs. Adam spoke on leading change with energy, touching on the different levels of leadership and how to encourage and motivate others. The Leadership Venango Class of 2019 will meet for their final session May 8 at the Drake Well Museum.

Join us in celebrating the inaugural class of Leadership Venango on May 22! Find more details about graduation here.

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s May 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.