Delivering connection, learning and hope during a pandemic

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The Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce offers two leadership programs annually: Capital Area Student Leadership and Leadership Greater Concord.

CASL provides Capital area high school sophomores with the opportunity to learn from State and City leaders outside of a traditional classroom environment. It also gives young people the confidence and opportunity to explore what qualities make someone a leader and how ideas become actions in their school or community.

Leadership Greater Concord provides adults with an expanded civics program that prepares them for future volunteer community, local or board service. Through ten LGC session days, participants gain the necessary skills, tools and connections needed to get more involved and make a difference in their communities.


Both programs require a great deal of advanced planning and support through the Chamber, our volunteer committees and the community. Transitioning after 30 years to a format that would safely deliver the programming experience we wanted for our CASL and Leadership participants at the onset of COVID-19 posed a real challenge.

CASL traditionally takes place during the month of March, and as the threat of COVID crept into the country, the Chamber took proactive steps to adjust programming for the already accepted Class of 2020, ahead of the Governor’s stay at home mandate. “Capital Area Student Leadership is a one-time opportunity for a student’s sophomore year and New Hampshire’s only regional student leadership program,” said Tim Sink, Chamber President. “With so much uncertainty swirling around this virus and its growing impact on families, we wanted to deliver that impactful CASL experience for those students.” So rather than cancel the program and further disappoint young adults already facing losses like sports, clubs and time with peers, the Chamber transformed CASL into a virtual experience that continued this year with CASL Class of 2021 representing 35 students from Concord, Bow, Hopkinton, John Stark Regional, Merrimack Valley and Pembroke Academy. Programming included an online parent student reception, orientation, team-building activities, and weekly sessions through March of 2021.

A combination of interactive activities, small group work, and presentations from local business and community leaders on the following themes added to the students’ experience: Finding the leader within—self-realization of leadership traits, qualities and identifying values; Effective communication; Mindfulness and intention; Overcoming adversity; Leading or starting a business/nonprofit; Sharing messages through media and with the use of data; and Ability and ease of access to politics in NH.

Guest speakers included: Christopher Emond, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central NH; Crystal Reynolds, Owner & Operator of 43 Degrees North Athletic Club; Angie Lane, Executive Director at Red River Theatres, Inc.; Emmett Soldati, Owner & Founder of Teatotaller; Erika Janik, Executive Producer at New Hampshire Public Radio; Phil Sletten, Senior Policy Analyst at NH Fiscal Policy Institute; Josh Hardy, Executive Director at ConcordTV; Dr. Deborah Osgood, Osgood & Associates and Theresa Fersch, local author.

Students shared the following feedback throughout the program:

“I learned that I am pretty good at recognizing counterarguments and being able to combat them.”

“I realized that I like presenting speeches in front of large groups.”

“I really enjoyed getting to hear business owners speak about their inspirations, future aspirations, and favorite parts about owning a business in the Concord area.”

“Knowing everything is not necessary to being a leader, and part of being a leader is getting help from others.”

“Failure is a natural part of learning.”

“A message that really resonated with me was how you can be a leader in your community while being a business owner.”

“I would highly recommend CASL to other students!”

More than 675 students have graduated from Capital Area Student Leadership over the last two decades. To learn more about the program visit www.ConcordNHChamber.com/CASL.

While the Chamber’s leadership program for adults offered opportunities (following CDC recommendations) to safely gather in-person as a class and visit sites in small groups, Leadership Greater Concord also adapted to include timely and relevant virtual content that complimented session days like education, government and politics, health and human services, and communications and the media. Class participants experienced what students and educators have experienced throughout the pandemic during Education Day which was set up much like a typical remote school day during COVID-19. Participants maneuvered from different online platforms based on activity, using Google Classroom Hangout, Zoom, Remo, and completed virtual community-based activities through technology like FlipGrid video.

Health & Human Services Day featured special guest Elizabeth R. Daly, DrPH, MPH, Chief of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health Services, where she oversees all infectious disease program areas including surveillance, investigations, immunizations, and prevention.

Government & Politics Day included meetings with the following local and state legislators and speakers via Zoom: Governor Chris Sununu; Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington; Representative Dave Luneau, D-Hopkinton; Representative Dan Wolf, R-Newbury; Stuart Trachy, Chairman of the Merrimack County Clerk;

Mayor James Bouley, City of Concord; Tom Aspell, Concord City Manager; David Stack, Bow Town Manager; Amanda Grady-Sexton, Concord City Councilor (Moderator); Byron Champlin, Concord City Councilor; Jim O’Brien, former Hopkinton Selectmen; and Jim Monahan, President, Dupont Group; former Merrimack County Treasurer.

Communications Day included speakers from NHPR, ConcordTV and the Concord Monitor, in January during the height of elections and inaugurations.

Class feedback and takeaways about Leadership Greater Concord included:

“I feel more informed to have discussions outside of LGC about important topics.”

“How positive and caring the staff are that run our corrections facilities.”

“It’s often easy to complain about outcomes, but Concord really offers a lot of platforms to be a part of outcomes that I wasn't specifically aware of.”

“How much business the arts bring into town because I did not realize it.”

“I already had a conversation with my leadership team about ways we could be more environmentally friendly.”

“I had no idea the police in Concord were so active in the community.”

Leadership Greater Concord has nearly 600 alumni, many of whom are serving on local town boards, nonprofit boards or a municipal committee. Interested candidates who have a commitment to the community and are likely to assume greater responsibility in the future are encouraged to apply by June 1 for the 2021-2022 program at www.ConcordNHChamber.com/Leadership.
What we learned in shifting both these programs paved the way for online forums, Zoom webinars, Remo networking and virtual trade show events. Thank you to our dedicated committees and speakers, and special thanks to CASL Sponsor Northeast Delta Dental and Leadership Greater Concord Sponsor Unitil for your support!

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