L to R:  New Leadership Evanston Alumni Shelly Spenser Fitzsimmons, Paul Klitzkie and Robin Rue.        Photo By Bill Burlingham

Evanston Community Foundation’s Leadership Evanston program graduated its 21st Signature Leadership Evanston class on June 13. These 30 energetic, motivated individuals joined nearly 600 alumni of the program, which encourages local residents, workers and business-owners to be more engaged in the community. 

Participants gain a broader, deeper knowledge of Evanston and examine and practice key leadership skills during the 10-month program. This year’s graduates strove to make an impact through group projects. Individuals collaborated within four groups to address community issues that included economic development, affordable housing, culture of community and education.  

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

Newly minted 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 comp[osed] mostly of ‘strangers’ was an enlightening experience that provided challenges and discoveries,” said Matt Trewartha, of State Representative 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. Together, our group was able to look at data pertaining to the City of Evanston, and scholarly social research … and come together on an action plan that will hopefully make it easier and more comfortable for people to get to know their neighbors,” Mr. Trewartha said.

The members of Leadership Evanston Signature Class XXI include Jessica Vlahogiannis, Matt Trewartha, Leslie Rice, Joe Wright, Diane Claussen, Theatre and Interpretation Center at Northwestern University, Ann Rhomberg, Sharon Weeks, Niki Horrell, Matt DiNello, Svetlana Baklanova, Sue Loellbach, Leonard English, Paul Klitzkie, Tracy Fulce, Glen Madeja, Kristin Winter, Jennifer Billingsley, Robin Rue, Mike Baskin, Melissa Sacluti, Brooke Roothaan, Susan Bartlett-Ye, Joel Servillo, Tony Kirchmeier, Shelly Spencer Fitzsimmons, Rick Hubbard, Elena Garcia Ansani, Shannon Callahan, Meagan Jones and Natalie Watson.

More information on the program is available at www.evanstonforever.org or 847-492-0900.