Senator Eric Lesser Addresses Leadership Commencement

Thirty-four emerging leaders graduate from regional  leadership development program

Northampton, MA- On Wednesday, June 14th from 3- 6:30 p.m. at the Smith College Conference Center, 34 Leadership Pioneer Valley participants presented their community partnership projects and received certificates of graduation from the 10-month program. Six participant-planned team projects served as the capstone experience for graduates; providing hands-on learning while benefitting local organizations.



LPV project teams collaborated with non-profit partners to reach self-produced goals and meet partner expectations. The team projects included working with Westover Job Corps to create and present skills workshops, creation of a signature event plan for the Springfield Central Cultural District, an analysis and plan for building tiny houses for the Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, the creation of internship program for disadvantaged youth through WGBY, a plan for offering a summer camp for Springfield children through Make-It-Springfield, and a marketing plan for increasing train frequency in the region for Trains In the Valley.


To fulfill graduation requirements, each participant attended day-long monthly sessions from October until May featuring seminar-style leadership development sessions and hands-on field experiences in local communities. Throughout the program, participants refined leadership skills, networked and made meaningful connections, and developed a greater capacity for both community trusteeship and cultural competency.


“LPV has allowed me the opportunity to meet people outside of my profession. People in my community who I never would have met and have such willingness to share ideas. I have been inspired by the individual passions that people have to make a difference and I hope to seek out something for myself,” remarked Dawn Gatzounas, LPV ’17 & Cooley Dickinson Hospital.


Class of 2017 graduates are a culturally diverse group of 34 men and women representing non-profit, private, educational and public organizations throughout Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties. Leadership Pioneer Valley Class of 2017 is the sixth graduating class of its kind.


“Because of the work they have done and the things they have learned together, these impressive graduates of Leadership Pioneer Valley’s program are in a position to charter the future of Western Mass. They are not only the next generation of local leaders, they are already leading — and I am eager to see what they do next,” said State Senator Eric Lesser.


“We congratulate this thoughtful and community-minded group of emerging leaders. It has been a pleasure to see the LPV Class of 2016 develop over the past 10 months, and we are very impressed. These graduates have the tools and the desire to really make a positive difference for the Pioneer Valley and its communities,” said Lora Wondolowski, Executive Director of Leadership Pioneer Valley.


LPV 2017 Graduates


Galina Abashina of Westfield, Jewish Family Service of Western MA
Ryan Barry of Easthampton, Bulkley Richardson & Gelinas LLP
Latoya Bosworth of Chicopee, Springfield Public Schools
Andrew Christensen of East Longmeadow, MassMutual
Sarah Crouse of Granby, Appleton Corp
Tasheena Davis of Springfield, City of Springfield
Morgan Drewniany of Westfield, Springfield Central Cultural District
Patrick Egan of Longmeadow, YWCA of Western MA
James Farrell Of Chicopee, Health New England
Jillian Ferguson Of Northampton, *City of Chicopee
Melissa Fernette Of Greenfield, Baystate Franklin Medical Center
Dawn Gatzounas Of South Hadley, Cooley Dickinson Hospital
Emily Gaylord Of Easthampton, Center for EcoTechnology
Johnathan Griffin Of Greenfield, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Gillian Hinkson Of Springfield, Hampden County DA Office
Mark Hudgik Of Hadley, Greenfield Community College
Justin Hurst Of Springfield, Springfield City Council
Kimberly Lavallee Of East Longmeadow, Greater Springfield YMCA
Yaileen Medina Of Springfield, MassMutual
Daniel Nietsche Of Greenfield, Franklin Regional Council of Governments
John O’Leary Of Northampton, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
Julia Ortiz Of Springfield, Springfield Housing Authority
Katherine Person Of Easthampton, Veterans Inc.
Karen Pohlman Of Northampton, *Baystate Health
Mayor William Reichelt Of West Springfield, Town of West Springfield
Jessica Roncarati-Howe Of Chicopee, Greater Chicopee Chamber of Commerce
Kristine Rose Of Holyoke, Mount Holyoke College
Daniel Schwarting Of Longmeadow, ISO New England
Jill Scibelli Of East Longmeadow, Baystate Medical Center
Jane Sicard Of Holyoke, Baystate Health
Renee Tastad Of Holyoke, Holyoke Community College
Giselle Vizcarrondo Of Springfield, *Tapestry Health
Laura Walsh Of Springfield, City of Springfield, Parks and Recreation
Brian Westerlind Of Agawam, The Markens Group, Inc


* changed employers during program