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New program seeks to train diverse leaders in McLean County

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BLOOMINGTON -- McLean County is becoming increasingly diverse, and a new program to train leaders reflects that.

The Multicultural Leadership Program has an inaugural class of 25. They are diverse ethnically, as well as by gender, age and sexual orientation.

The program is run by a partnership between the University of Illinois Extension Office and Heartland Community College and backers hope it will boost the number of business and community leaders.

Members of the newly formed group, which had an orientation session late last month, will meet bi-weekly for eight months, said Deanna Frautschi, executive vice president of human resources and communications at Country Financial.

"We are seeing in this community more and more people from various cultural backgrounds, Frautschi said.

Frautschi was a member of a panel which selected the 25, who were chosen for, among other things, their commitment to community issues.

Participants will be involved in panel discussions and exercises that include public speaking, mentoring and crisis management. They will also work on projects with several local agencies, including the Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal; Community Cancer Center and McLean County Court Services.

"These individuals come from different walks of life, but share the common goal of wanting to improve their leadership skills," said Phani Aytam, customer strategy manager at State Farm Bank and one of the program's creators.

MCLP members are also looking for future projects for 2010. Those with ideas can contact Faye Freeman Smith at Heartland Community College at (309) 268-8419.

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