Suzie Light (L), Kosciusko County Community Foundation executive director and a judge for the White Paper Projects, presented a Trustee Award to the “Public Health and Water Quality at Limitless Park” team of (L to R) Jason Montel, Matt Abbitt, Cliff Buttermore and Darren Bickel during the Kosciusko Leadership Academy’s 37th Graduation Celebration Tuesday. Also pictured is KLA founder Jean Northenor (far right), and not pictured is “Water Quality” team member Lyn Crighton. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Suzie Light (L), Kosciusko County Community Foundation executive director and a judge for the White Paper Projects, presented a Trustee Award to the “Public Health and Water Quality at Limitless Park” team of (L to R) Jason Montel, Matt Abbitt, Cliff Buttermore and Darren Bickel during the Kosciusko Leadership Academy’s 37th Graduation Celebration Tuesday. Also pictured is KLA founder Jean Northenor (far right), and not pictured is “Water Quality” team member Lyn Crighton. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

Calling the winning White Paper Project a “standout,” Kosciusko Leadership Academy founder Jean Northenor presented the 2018 Northenor Award to the “Governor’s Work Ethic Certificate” team of Phil Kuhn, Brian Lardino and Eric McCray.

The annual award, presented at the 37th KLA Graduation Celebration Tuesday, included $1,250 for the KLA cadets to help get their project off the ground.

“Governor’s Work Ethic Certificate” would provide high school students with an opportunity to learn and earn recognition for hard and soft skills sought by area employers. Each student earning the required criteria would be presented with a certification to show future employers.

“This project that wins the award tonight, was a standout in traditional areas of our judging: countywide impact, the ability to get the project done and the likelihood that it would be sustainable,” Northenor said.

“Where the project was really spot-on though was that it addresses a serious issue that affects our region’s economy, and it does so in a way that creates opportunity for every school student in the county.”

Northenor said Kosciusko County is at a point of historical low unemployment. With many help wanted signs posted around the area, she said employers say that hiring for specific skills is one challenge, but an even a greater challenge is finding potential employees who have more basic skills – showing up every day, taking initiative and being a team player and respectful of others. A new program launched by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is focused on the issue, and the winning KLA team “has done a great deal of work in preparing employers, educators and students to take the greatest advantage of this program.”





She said not only does the project address a critical need in Kosciusko County, “We were impressed with the group’s proposed use of the prize money: to market to students and to create a recognition program that provides visible symbols of the dedication of the students who receive the certificate.”

Lardino said the team is still working on the project to get it moving forward. The award money will go toward sashes for the students to walk with at graduation showing that they have achieved a certificate and toward business-card certificates students can take with them to their potential employer. Employers would also recognize the business card-sized certificate, he said.

McCray said the funds also would help market the program and certificates and attract as many students to the program as possible that have interest in it. It also would help get employers interested in the program.

Suzie Light, Kosciusko County Community Foundation executive director and a judge for the White Paper Projects, presented a Trustee Award to the “Public Health and Water Quality at Limitless Park” team of Matt Abbitt, Darren Bickel, Cliff Buttermore, Lyn Crighton and Jason Montel. The award comes with $750. The goal of the project is to improve the shoreline and landscape by the Winona Lake Limitless Park.

In presenting the award, Light said, “We want to recognize one project that we also thought had great merit, especially in a county where so much of our lives are oriented around our lakes.

“While the White Paper Project was specific to only one lake in the county, we think that the effort can serve as a model and will encourage others to take significant action to protect our lakes,” she said.

Earlier in the ceremony, KLA adviser Nathan Conley surprised Cameron Plew with the Hall of Fame award.

“There are so many people .... that do so much for KLA in so many ways, and they do it for nothing more than a simple thank-you sometimes, so a few years ago we came up with this Hall of Fame award,” Conley said.

“This year, our 2018 Hall of Fame award recipient has served on the KLA board as a selection director for over eight years. Now the selection director, if you don’t know, is probably one of the toughest jobs. You field a class of 25 cadets every year.”

Plew also is a member of the Kosciusko Economic Development Corp. Business Retention Committee, Syracuse-Wawasee Rotary Club, a board member for the Syracuse-Wawasee Foundation member of the Young Adult Professionals Advisory Board, among many other memberships, Conley said.

Other White Paper Projects this year and team members were: “Chamber of Commerce Educational Speakers’ Bureau,” Austin Donovan and Josh Finch; “Growing a Healthier Community,” Sheryl Harlan, Lori Haywood, Amanda Landis and Andrew Waugh; “Increasing Access to Blueway Trails: Feasibility of a Boat and Kayak Launch,” Joe Beard, Jordan Foreman, Stephen Gerber and Jim Layne; “Share-A-Pet Assisted Therapy,” Erica Elliott, Kelly Engle, Stephanie Johnson and  Cari Wells; and “Technology Reuse Initiative of Kosciusko County,” Jason Brandyberry, Dr. Joe Frentzel and Craig Kauffman.

Guest speaker for the graduation ceremony was Josh Wildman, Wildman Business Group CEO, who discussed the company’s history, growth and philanthropy.

KLA conducts sessions each year that give students access to the leaders in the community, according to its website at www.kosciuskoleadership.org.

Critical community issues such as county and state government, health care, education, agriculture, business and entrepreneurship are discussed and examined. The KLA experience culminates with a White Paper Project. Students form teams and research relevant community issues and needs. Class members propose workable solutions.

The KLA executive committee includes Dr. Jeff Fawcett, president; Tom Till, vice president; Alice Hitchcock, secretary/treasurer; Joni Truex, public information; Jason Zaugg, selection; Elise Close, curriculum; Shelly Fraley, events coordinator; Dr. Allyn Decker, moderator; and Conley. The 2018-19 committee will remain the same, except it’s seeking a KLA alum to serve in the public information position.