The Leadership Northwest Missouri Class of 2019 recently graduated at the Benton Club in St. Joseph. Marked with a tinge of sadness, but mostly excitement and happiness, the largest class ever gathered one more time to celebrate each other and the region we all call home.

Leadership Northwest Missouri’s mission is to build, strengthen and inspire leaders through training and networking experiences. While that is a truly stellar goal, it hardly describes the feeling one walks away with from this class.

Our class, though the largest with 30 members, had a surprisingly close-knit connection. From day one at the retreat at Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri, we opened up and shared parts of our lives with strangers that some hadn’t even told family.

At that exact moment, we found a spark. We all felt it, sharing something so personal with others opens a person to possibilities. There is strength in vulnerability. It puts into motion a combined effort to care for each other. It inspired a shared vision for ourselves, our communities and our region.

This class not only helps create an environment in which those who take it to learn and grow for their businesses and jobs, but also for their communities, encouraging the heart of the region.

When 30 people get together with a common goal, nearly anything can be achieved. We all have different skills and abilities. This program helped us recognize — there are others with the same drive and goals — that together we are stronger. 

The connections created in this class will last a lifetime. We may not see each other every day, but we know we can count on any classmate should the need arise.

Meeting at a different location throughout the 19-county northwest Missouri region, we heard from business owners, farmers, county commissioners and community members. We learned how they modeled the way in their communities, becoming better and developing closer bonds. This is how a region flouishes … together.

The Class of 2019 chose to embrace its internal flames, challenge the process and work to ignite them in others for the betterment of the region in the best way we knew how. Our class project will raise funds for Leadership Northwest Missouri. It took some time figuring out just what our project would be, a golf tournament, but once we decided what the funds would be used for it didn’t matter. The goal is the same.

Keep funding this program. Keep growing this program. 

It links people together. It creates community. It enables others to act. It achieves the mission each and every year strengthening and inspiring leaders. 

Thanks to this program, the Class of 2019 created ties that ignite within each other a passion not only for our own communities, but for the region.

Skye Pournazari is the Managing Editor of The Maryville Forum.