Unique program gives underserved youth a chance to succeed

SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — For years, global leaders in business and industry have turned to a Northeast Ohio development company to hone their skills.

The Telos Institute has now extended its training and mentorship to underserved youth.

With a mission to give back to the community, the Chardon-based company created an emerging leadership program.

“They have a heart for young people. These people are committed to their future,” said Ron Soeder, director of the Telos Leadership Foundation.

The program gives students and those at the start of their careers a chance to develop their skills.

“We have enormous diversity in age, ethnicity and income,” Soeder said.

Soeder is the former executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Ohio and said this kind of outreach is desperately needed.

Courtesy of the Telos Institute.

Participants at the Telos Institute.

“Once the boys and girls club alumni graduate, they don’t have much to do,” Soeder said.

Soeder said the program gives young men and women a chance to find out who they are.

“They examine their values. What do I stand for? What do I believe in?” said Soeder.

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Courtesy of the Telos Institute.

Participants at the Telos Institute.

Leadership outreach includes personal coaches offering advice on careers, financial literacy, networking, and self-care.

“Go out for a walk, hike, adopt healthy habits, meditate,” Soeder said.

For Sinegugu Gasa, 29, the 10-month program was eye-opening.

“I don’t have the opportunity to do things like that in my life, so it was great. I learned a bit about some of my strengths,” Gasa said.

Gasa said she was also inspired as she looked to the future.

“You can do it. No matter where you’re from, no matter what kind of circumstances you’ve been through, you can make something out of yourself and your future is in your hands,” Gasa said.

Right now, these emerging leaders are looking for ways to reallocate three vacant lots in Cleveland.

“One in Slavic Village, one in the Glenville neighborhood and one on the West Side,” Soeder said.

They will receive approximately $40,000 for each batch to implement their ideas.

“A community garden, ongoing events, food distribution, partnership with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank,” Gasa said.

Emerging leaders will also be on hand to help build their plans from the ground up.

“Not only can you grow as a leader, but you can provide services, you can bring benefits to the communities they live in, and many live very close to both of those lots,” Soeder said.

The hope is that once the current two dozen emerging leaders complete the program, they will keep their skills and talents close to home.

“Helping them find careers that are here, giving them mentors that can open doors for them, that will keep them here,” Soeder said.

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