BY KATIE MATTESON
I received the 2019 Gene Szymczak Community Trustee Award at the Leadership Racine graduation ceremony on May 14. I felt incredibly honored to receive recognition for my contributions, but also humbled in the presence of the 22 graduates of the program and the legacy of the 20 LR classes before them.
The passion was palpable from these men and women who dedicated themselves to a nine-month journey that started with a two-day retreat in September, followed by eight monthly sessions that focused on the servant leadership traits that are needed to become an effective civic leader.
Those traits include listening, persuasion, empathy, healing, awareness, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people and building community. They learned about the local history, economic development, human services, education, arts and culture, tourism, media, government and law and nonprofit service.
The class split up into four teams and took on projects with a partnering agency. Each team presented their project results during the awards ceremony.
The Racine GOTRs partnered with Girls on the Run to take on the challenge to provide the opportunity for female youth in Racine to experience a supportive environment and gain a positive body image by helping to expand the Girls on the Run program in Racine County.
Team Belle partnered with Greening Greater Racine to take on the challenge of encouraging increased participation and awareness to help reduce waste and promote sustainability in Racine by expanding the reach and influence of EcoFest and Greening Greater Racine.
Team S.A.T. partnered with Racine County to take on the challenge of activating modern, playful learning environments in the Racine community by promoting the creation of shared learning experiences and activities in everyday spaces where children and families mingle.
Racine-aissance partnered with Visioning a Greater Racine to take on the challenge of a large number of Racine residents having a negative perception of the community by providing a simple and fun way to appreciate Racine.
At the conclusion of the presentation, each graduate pledged their commitment to serve a local organization.
Kudos to Anna Clementi, operations manager at Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce aka RAMAC for her leadership and dedication to this program, from which she is also a graduate.
Here’s an excerpt from my speech, which expresses my take on servant leadership:
“I’ve been asked to talk to you about my leadership path, with the hope that you’ll glean something useful that you can apply to your own journey.
“I hope what you hear in my story is that leadership is much more than standing up front. Sometimes it’s bringing up the rear or taking out the trash. Sometimes it’s listening more than talking. Sometimes it’s saying yes. Sometimes it’s saying no.
“But it always involves showing up and being all in. And it always involves risk and vulnerability. And it only works in partnership with other people.
“I believe collaboration is the secret sauce to successful leadership and community stewardship…
“As for my advice to you, Leadership Racine graduates, you’ve already taken the most important step in your leadership journey by learning about the importance of becoming a community trustee and stepping into the arena, instead of watching from the sidelines.
“I’ll leave you with this quote from a speech President Teddy Roosevelt gave in 1910, which researcher and author Brené Brown cited in her 2012 book, ‘Daring Greatly’ – which I highly recommend. She also has a new Netflix special that you simply must take time to watch called ‘Brené Brown: The Call to Courage.’
“’It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’
“Congratulations graduates and I’ll see you in the arena!”