Friday, March 18, 2011

A LEADS week – at a glance

By Carolyn Smith ‘11

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I recently had a very busy LEADS week!  Monday morning, I attended a Roundtable Meeting for Non–Profit leaders of Bergen County with new County Executive Kathleen Donovan in a packed Public Meeting Room in the County Administration Building. I parked my car, looked up, and saw LEADS Director Amanda Missey in the parking lot.  She and many members of the Volunteer Center of Bergen County, such as Tess Tomasi, also attended the event.  Two current LEADS classmates were also in attendance – Carmine Marchdionda of Spectrum for Living ( and Jayne Press of the Eastern Christian Children’s Retreat (  And, I spotted Dana Spett of Pony Power (, a great non-profit in Mahwah that I was fortunate to visit on my first day of LEADS, along with classmates Robert Abreu, Eileen Hughes and Carmine.  Pony Power provides therapeutic riding to children with special needs, and in some instances adults.  For example, they offer a program entitled Horses for Heroes for veterans healing from injury and illness.      

The County Executive welcomed everyone with brief opening remarks, and was eager to hear questions from non-profit leaders who filled the room.  She thanked Volunteer Center of Bergen County Executive Director Janet Sharma for her work in making the event possible.  She told the non-profits that they would be experiencing a 7% reduction in funds received from the county in comparison to last year, and explained that she recognized the important work of non-profits, which is why they weren’t cut as much as other areas.  Some members who spoke expressed gratitude that the cuts weren’t more drastic.  The County Executive also stated that her staff would be looking into which non-profits did the best job at what they do. 

Everyone introduced her/himself at the County Executive’s request, including her staff,  whom she made available to the non-profits that morning and in the future.  There is definitely an intimate sense of community among non-profits.  The noble work these organizations do was recognized and commended.   

Then, Monday evening I headed to the Benjamin Franklin Middle School in RidgewoodColleen Hurley shared with our class that the documentary, Race to Nowhere, was being screened.  ( LEADS directors encouraged us to see this and other education movies for our program.  The auditorium was filled, and Vicki Abeles, the producer of the film, took part in a Q & A at the end.  One of the funniest things she said was that her intern took a message for her that read “the Light House called.”  The intern had misheard the caller; it was really the White House!  Needless to say, the movie is getting noticed.  The consensus of participants, which included faculty, parents, and students, was that students are overscheduled.  The movie shines a spotlight on the high school experience and the serious stresses students and families face.  I missed seeing classmate Susan Barbuto and any others who attended this particular screening because of the large crowd.

On Wednesday morning, I participated in an Open House for prospective members of next year’s LEADS class at Bergen Community College in Paramus.  Classmate Jennifer Reyes also attended, along with 2010 alumnae Roberta Sonenfeld and Susan Barnard.  It was great meeting prospective members, who had very interesting backgrounds and would make valuable additions to next year’s class.  I learned from last year’s alumnae that I’ll experience monthly withdrawals when I graduate; both really missed the seminar days each month when they graduated.  I also learned about several exciting new LEADS programs, which I hope to blog about in the future.

By the way, I had to miss my LEADS team’s weekly conference call Wednesday morning regarding our Class Project in June, but I did catch up with the e-mail summary.

Happy to report that the week closed out on a high note…we were notified that two classmates, Laura Amerman of Comprehensive Behavioral Healthcare ( and Jose Vicente of Ameriprise Financial Solutions ( will be receiving Arline Simpson Leadership Awards from the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce ( for their contributions to the community and to the Chamber. Congratulations Jose and Laura!  Way to represent our LEADS Class of 2011!

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