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Advancing Leadership unveils UniteFW.com | Nandell Palmer

On a windswept Thursday morning last September, 26 people from diverse backgrounds congregated at the Calvary Lutheran Church in Federal Way.

After milling about and melding personalities to create a lasting gorgeous mosaic, the day portended to be one that I will never soon forget.

The auspicious occasion was the opening retreat — the first day of a 9-month-long course given by the prestigious Federal Way’s Advancing Leadership Class of 2010.

Our class is comprised of educators, a police officer, a city financial guru, senior fire personnel, entrepreneurs, socialites, community leaders, among sundry other vocations.

These estimable men and women either live or work in Federal Way. Their names are Alex Charoni, Dave Davis, Kathryn Dunn, Cindy Ducich, Anja Emmons, Bryant Enge, Lawrence Garrett, Noah Keables, Rick Leavitt, McKenna Leehan.

Heather Lewis, Debra Lumpkin, Kelsey Martin, AnnaMaria Pasley-Horn, Vic Pennington, Tina Piety, Robyn Richins, Lori Santamaria, Janice Siebenaler, Catriona Siver.

Jodi Sutcliff, Addy Tseng, Chrislyn Johnson, Agnes Vronsky-Wooters, Chrysti Zimmerman, and yours truly, Nandell Palmer.

Some of you are no doubt asking, what is Advancing Leadership (AL)? It is a consortium of sorts. Its primary goal is “to educate and build our resources of skilled, informed and committed community leaders who make a difference.”

AL was created under the umbrella of the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, with supplemental sponsorships from St. Francis Hospital, Woodstone Credit Union, the City of Federal Way, Weyerhaeuser, Comcast, among others.

Striving to create networking opportunities to make a better Federal Way, AL students meet one Thursday of each month for all-day sessions until the class graduates in June.

There is a different theme for each class session such as Government Day, Diversity Day, Education Day, among five other ones. Students meet face-to-face with Federal Way-based gatekeepers within our public schools, elected government, social services and houses of worship from diverse faiths.

We read from the voluminous “The Leadership Challenge,” authored by Kouzes and Posner. Some of the principles are "Inspire a Shared Vision," "Challenge the Process" and "Encourage the Heart."

The first AL class was begun in 1999. Since that time, every class has been charged with developing and implementing a team project. This project must provide a community service and utilize collaborative and team-working skills.

At the culmination of each year’s graduating class, the project is unveiled and put in place as a legacy for the citizenry of Federal Way.

Our team project for this year revolves around finding solutions for at-risk youths, creating a forum to stanch potential gang influence.

We have come up with a powerful medium in the form of a website – UniteFW.com – where parents, educators, coaches and community members, etc., can be better informed about any gang traits their teenagers may be modeling.

Bearing a repository of thousands of invaluable online links, UniteFW.com prides itself on providing easier access to already existing services in Federal Way and throughout King County. This is made simple by pooling myriad resources in a central location — UniteFW.com.

Some of Federal Way’s lasting legacies stemming from former AL classes were fashioned among alums like Rose Ehl, whose brainchild was later developed into the Federal Way Farmer’s Market.

AL graduates are everywhere. Federal Way City Manager and Police Chief Brian Wilson is an alum as are school board member Amye Bronson-Doherty and local columnists Debra Feamelli, Amy Johnson and Kelly Maloney.

I have traveled both physically and vicariously with AL over the past months. Those journeys have brought me to places that I honestly didn’t know exist. For example, touring the Buddhist temple in Federal Way felt like I was in Phuket, Thailand.

Africa showed up, too. Hearing about the “Lydia Story” has put a dent in my psyche forever. Ethiopian-born Lydia Dawson, an AL alum speaker, was just five months old when she suffered major burns to her legs.

But despite this tragic experience, the pulchritudinous woman still finds the positive in that near-death saga.

In my view, Advancing Leadership is the best-kept secret in town.

I wish to say special thanks to all the people who have contributed to the furtherance of this organization. Executive Director Teri Hickel is unmatched.

Dan Shea, Monda Holsinger, Jon McIntosh and other motivational speakers have never made us forget the joys of giving back to our community. Councilwoman Jean Burbidge, you have never left us out, along with other board members.

You all have cracked the doors for me, and I will endeavor to push them wide open and explore the wonderful vista, which is called Federal Way.

For more information, contact Teri Hickel at (253) 528-0846 or terih@federalwaychamber.com.

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