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Reposted from NWI Times, June 4, 2011

PORTAGE | Thirty-six individuals from throughout Northwest Indiana graduated Friday from the Leadership Northwest Indiana during a lunch at Woodland Park.

LNI is a nonprofit that offers a program of education, information and interaction to leaders from the business, government, nonprofits and social service agencies from throughout the seven-county region.

This 29th class to attend the 10-month program brings the number of LNI alumni to more than 800 people since its inception in 1982 through a grant to Indiana University Northwest from the Lilly Endowment. Classes are started twice a year, and participants are nominated to attend. The group of carefully selected men and women are from varied backgrounds and employment sectors, said Keith Kirkpatrick, LNI executive director.

Traditionally, each class meets once a month for a day from September through June with each session focused on a topical issue such as education, transportation, media/communications, social services, health care, government, the arts, natural resources, economic development, and cultural diversity. An all-day visit to the Indiana General Assembly also is made in February.

Current and emerging leaders learn about the issues and concerns affecting Northwest Indiana while “celebrating its wealth of resources and assets,” Kirkpatrick said.

Some of the graduates are Northwest Indiana natives while others moved here from other states or countries. Three live in Chicago and commute to the region for work. One recently moved to Indianapolis.

“Every day I’m down (in Indianapolis), I miss Northwest Indiana,” said Robert Ordway, who was reared in Lake Station. “I’m very optimistic about the area. Diversity is often seen as a problem in this area. It should be our number one asset.”

Prior to the luncheon, each of the graduates shared plans for using what they learned during the LNI sessions.

“I’m from Chicago, and I never considered Northwest Indiana anything more than a pass-through. This program has showed me what a great region this is. It really opened my eyes. I feel very privileged to be working on the 2040 plan for this area,” said Kevin Garcia, data resources planner for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

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