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Leadership program will train community members from Lowell, Lawrence, and Haverhill

A leadership program aimed at providing an executive education to community members in some of the state’s Gateway Cities said it will offer training to more than 60 participants from Lowell, Lawrence, and Haverhill this fall.

The group also announced Derek Mitchell, former executive director for the Lawrence Partnership, as president of the LEADS program, according to a statement.

The LEADS program (Leaders Engaged and Activated to Drive System-wide change), which began with a cohort in Lawrence in 2018, was created as an executive leadership program developed by local leaders and Harvard Business School faculty and staff. The effort expanded to include participants from Lowell and Haverhill in 2020.

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Pam Hallagan, a cofounder and the program’s executive director, said LEADS is a 10-month initiative to develop and network leaders across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

“Our goal is to build the leadership capacity of our fellows while creating greater connectivity and social capital in order to help create more equitable, resilient, and thriving communities,” she said.

They are launching their final cohort of participants in the Merrimack Valley this year, and plan on launching the program in the North Shore area starting in 2022. They’ll train two more groups of participants over a two-year period, and will search for a new region to offer the program, according to Hallagan.

“Our business model has us running two cohorts in each region with the goal of developing between 125-150 leaders through the course of two fellowship years,” she said. “This is the model we will scale as we move to other regions around the state and, ultimately, beyond.”

After completing the program, the former participants join the LEADS Network, she said, which is effectively an alumni body.

LEADS has partnered with the Lowell Plan, the Lawrence Partnership, and the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce to deliver the program in the Merrimack Valley. Through the program, work has been done to help address issues such as affordable housing, downtown revitalization, and food security.

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Kerri Perry, executive director of Community Action, Inc. in Haverhill and a past participant in the LEADS program, said a local food initiative was created through the program.

That effort connected local pantries in need of food donations with manufacturers and farmers that had excess food supplies.

“It keeps locally grown and produced food local, cuts down on transportation, and develops strong connections of people with the similar goal of caring for their neighbors in need,” Perry said.

Evan Silverio, who is participating in the program this fall, said that “improving our communities is a constant and collective responsibility that we should all contribute to.”

Silverio, president and chief executive of the Silverio Group in Lawrence, said the LEADS program allows him “to be aligned with influential leaders from across the region in an effort to bring about positive change through learning, connecting and promoting creative ideas for the benefit of our communities.”


John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.