The Evanston Community Foundation’s Leadership Evanston program graduated its 21st Signature Leadership Evanston class this month

The 30 new grads join nearly 600 alumni, forming what the foundation sees as an expanding network of committed, insightful community leaders.

Leadership Evanston is now recruiting for the 22nd class which begins Sept. 12.

The program encourages local residents, workers and business owners to be more engaged in the community.

Participants gain a broader and deeper knowledge of Evanston and examine and practice key leadership skills, becoming more inspired, more connected and more involved during the 10-month program.

More information is available online or by calling 847-492-0900. The application deadline is July 15.

This year’s graduates worked to make an impact through group projects — collaborating in four groups to address community issues including economic development, affordable housing, culture of community and education.

The Culture of Community project group committed to promoting safe and friendly neighborhoods by fostering opportunities for interaction among neighborhood. They focused on increasing the number of block parties by developing an  interactive forum for sharing tips for block party success.

New program graduate Diane Claussen, managing director of the Theatre and Interpretation Center at Northwestern University, said, “I loved the range of Evanston resources and challenges that was incorporated into the Leadership Evanston experience.  I learned something about how Northwestern University is perceived off campus and how different that perception is from the reality I experience working at Northwestern on a daily basis.”

“Working on a team comprised mostly of strangers was an enlightening experience that provided challenges and discoveries,” said Matt Trewartha, of State Rep. Robyn Gabel’s office.

“I found it inspiring to work with individuals who were equally passionate about the positive role that block parties have on the community, as well as to explore what our own definitions and examples of ‘community’ were,” Trewartha added.

“Together, our group was able to look at data pertaining to the City of Evanston, and scholarly social research, to plot the block party oases and deserts, explore the reasons why there are fewer in specific wards, and come together on an action plan that will hopefully make it easier and more comfortable for people to get to know their neighbors. In the end, I think we all found this group project to be a very beneficial experience to ourselves, each other, and to the community,” he said.

In addition to Claussen and Trewartha, the group includes:

  • Elena Garcia Ansani, McGaw YMCA Board, Latino Resource
  • Svetlana Baklanova, Practice HORA-USA, Evanston Chambers of Commerce
  • Susan Bartlett-Ye, Northwestern Memorial Hospital
  • Mike Baskin, Inclusion Solutions
  • Jennifer Billingsley, ZS Associates
  • Shannon Callahan, Howard Area Community Center
  • Matt DiNello, Downtown Evanston
  • Leonard English, SeniorServ, The Chessman Club of the North Shore
  • Shelley Spencer Fitzsimmons, Media/TV producer
  • Tracy Fulce, Oakton Community College
  • Niki Horrell, YWCA board
  • Rick Hubbard, Youth Organizations Umbrella board
  • Meagan Jones, Economic Development, City of Evanston
  • Tony Kirchmeier, Off-Campus Life, Northwestern University
  • Paul Klitzkie, Nature Perspective Landscaping, West End Business District
  • Sue Loellbach, Connections for the Homeless
  • Glen Madeja, Frances Willard Historical Association
  • Ann Rhomberg, Solidarity Bridge
  • Leslie Rice, Youth Organizations Umbrella (Y.O.U.)
  • Brooke Roothaan, Evanston Public Library board
  • Robin Rue, Signature Construction Services, Evanston Black Business Alliance
  • Melissa Sacluti, Evanston Police Department
  • Joel Servillo, ETHS Alumni Association, Gene Servillo Consulting, Incorporated
  • Jessica Vlahogiannis, Evanston Escola de Samba
  • Natalie Watson, Evanston 150, Walk n’ Roll
  • Sharon Weeks, Second Baptist Church, Evanston Township High School
  • Kristin Winter, Skokie Community Foundation, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Joe Wright, Roycemore School

Leadership Evanston graduates serve as aldermen and on Evanston’s school boards and have been instrumental in creating significant local initiatives and organizations.

Many Evanston non-profit and civic boards and organizations, such as McGaw YMCA, the Center for Independent Futures, Seniors Action Service of Evanston, the Evanston Environment Board, Evanston/North Shore YWCA, Evanston History Center, and the Youth Job Center, include Leadership Evanston graduates.

Top: Program participants Shelley Spenser Fitzsimmons, Paul Klitzkie and Robin Rue (Photo By Bill Burlingham).

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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