OSCEOLA COUNTY — Since graduating from the first class of the Osceola Leadership Summit, Sue Snavely has seen many benefits of the experience in her job as the Marketing and Public Relations Manager at Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital.

“One of my roles is to conduct a community health needs assessment and I have to know what agencies, services and resources are available in our area,” Snavely said. “In my travels of Osceola County (during the Osceola Leadership Summit), I learned there are various agencies out there that I would not have known about a year ago.”

Snavely and eight other Osceola County leaders came together one day each month from September to May for the Osceola Leadership Summit. The group traveled all around the county learning about available resources while improving their leadership skills.

“Every month was more informational than the next,” Snavely said. “I learned so much about our county that I didn’t

know before.”

After a successful first year, The Osceola Leadership Summit is now taking applications for the class of 2013.

Program facilitator Al Weinberg said candidates for the program do not need to have a specific title, but only a desire to improve their knowledge of the community.

“What we’re looking for from people is someone who knows who they are,” Weinberg said. “We want people who love their community, who know that they want to learn. One thing we say a lot to our students is ‘leaders are learners.’ So if you feel you’ve got something to learn, and are open to the process of learning, I think those are great Osceola Leadership Summit candidates.”

The nine-month, one–day–a–month program helps leaders connect with and discover their community through a series of field trips and lessons in effective communication. Group participants visited schools, health care facilities and the state capitol, saw emergency demonstrations and learned about local media.

“If you send someone to a leadership conference all week, employers think ‘oh my gosh, how do we cover for them?’” Weinberg said. “Here, you’re one day a month; you’re out, you come back refreshed. It’s something they really enjoy and are invested in.”

Along with learning about resources in the county, program participants also formed lasting bonds with each other. Many members of the 2012 class still keep in contact. Each month, the program began with a time for participants to update others on their lives since they last met.

“A lot of the feedback from this year is that people felt connected professionally and emotionally,” Weinberg said. “The second month that we met, we were having open, honest dialogues about leadership principles. That was because our opening experiences really bonded people.”

The 2013 program will be similar to last year’s program, Weinberg said, with the only change hopefully being an increase in participants. Two individuals have registered for the program so far, and Weinberg hopes to have at least 10.

The program will begin Sept. 20 with an overnight experience and continue for nine months on the third Thursday of the month. The program will culminate in May with a graduation and class project.

“I think it would be advantageous to anyone who wants to be a leader, make a difference and understand the inner-workings of our county,” Snavely said. “You might think you’re too busy — I know I did — but I looked forward to it every month.”

Along with Snavely, other alumni of the program include: Brenda Bowman, manager of the INC Spot in Reed City; Laurie Leudeman, Osceola County treasurer; Pam Wayne, Evart treasurer; Dave Langworthy, financial advisor at Edward Jones Investments; Molly Cataldo, manager of Citizens Bank in Evart; Bethany Bulldock, Sherman Township treasurer and Tammy Stoner, Osceola County commissioner.

The summit costs $650 and many participant employers choose to sponsor their employee. The fee covers all training materials, lunch and all experiences. Participants receive a leadership book and other materials along the journey.

Scholarships for the program are available, and were made possible by the Taste of Osceola fundraiser hosted by the 2012 OLS class.

Individuals interested in the experience can fill out a program registration packet at www.frontlinespecialists.com by Aug. 31. Tuition is due with the application.