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Clip: St. Peter leadership program addressing underrepresentation

By Brian Arola, The Free Press

With an eye on changing demographics, a leadership program launching in September aims to train St. Peter’s next generation of leaders.

The Blandin Foundation chose St. Peter for a grant to fund the Leadership in Ethnically Diverse Communities program for 34 residents. Participants, about half being from underrepresented demographics, will begin workshops about once per month between September and May.

Keri Johnson, part of the grassroots group that led efforts to apply for the grant, said it’s about ensuring St. Peter has civic leaders who understand the benefits of being an inclusive and welcoming place.

“(We’re) getting ahead of that and making sure we’re being aware of who’s new to our community and making sure they feel a part of it,” she said.

Johnson, who works at the St. Peter Food Co-op, and Tami Skinner, director of St. Peter Community and Family Education, were both part of the Region Nine’s rural equity program in St. Peter in 2018. The community previously held an “It’s Time to Talk” forum on race, and participants from both programs ended up joining forces to decide next steps under the “#OurStPeter” name.

Members of the group pursued Blandin after hearing about the program, which only comes to one city each year. Skinner said applying was a way to continue the work the equity and forum on race started.

“We just looked at our community and thought of what are ways we could make changes and improvements so St. Peter is a welcoming community for all of the people who live here,” she said.

The program seeks adults from diverse age groups, ethnicities, gender identities and job sectors. Johnson said it also seeks candidates with varying levels of experience in leadership.

“I really admire this program because we’re very intentional about who’s in the cohort,” Johnson said. “They want a combo of emerging leaders and established leaders.”

Applicants applied through mid-July and will be announced in August, said Blandin Foundation Leadership Recruitment Manager Becky Adams. The program will kick off Sept. 11 and continue monthly through March, followed by a final session in May. The Blandin grant covers expenses for all participants.

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