Leadership Honored at 9th Annual 20 Under 40 Awards

The 2019 20 Under 40 Award Recipients pose for a portrait at the luncheon on Friday in Watertown. Julia Hopkins/NNYBusiness

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20 Questions: From the kitchen to the community

Julia Hopkins/NNY Business
Matt Hudson, Executive Chef of the Hilton Garden Inn, poses for a portrait in front of his kitchen in Watertown.

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Young professionals honored in 2019 20 under 40 class

SYDNEY SCHAEFER/WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES
NNY Business 20 Under 40 award winners were presented with plaques.

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Young Leaders Provide Glimpse Into Our Community’s Future

Rande Richardson

“It wasn’t until I got into Youth Philanthropy Council that I saw the community is as a whole and what the needs are. It opened my eyes not only in Jefferson County and Watertown, but to Lewis County and St. Lawrence County. I think it taught me great life skills and the lessons that I’ve learned will be with me for a long time to come. Those values that YPC has instilled in me will carry on.” — Marcus Lavarnway, Youth Philanthropy Council alumnus 


Studies show that involvement as a youth is a significant factor influencing how adult volunteers and donors behave. This follows an approach of moving away from viewing youths as problems to be solved to seeing young people as resources to engage in community development. In this way, they can contribute more meaningfully to their own growth as leaders and to society in general. Students benefit from exploring community issues, the work of the region’s nonprofit organizations, and opportunities available for volunteering. They gain knowledge that is not as easily offered in the traditional school setting. This includes interpersonal problem solving, consensus building, diplomacy, confident, productive and respectful disagreement and higher-level communication and networking skills. 

    The Youth Philanthropy Council (YPC) became a pilot project of the Community Foundation in 2010. In nine years, high school students have been entrusted with grantmaking resources and empowered with the responsibility of properly stewarding gifts from generous annual donors combined with matching gifts from major sponsors Watertown Savings Bank and the Renzi Foodservice Charitable Foundation. Their work also led to engagement of middle school students through the Community Spirit Youth Giving Challenge. The results are proving the wisdom of asking our youth for their input. 

    Former YPC members recently reflected upon their experiences as they related to their time in college and as they advance their careers and personal lives. Each alumnus cited YPC as their most transformative high school experience. Others said the program helped them “find their place” in the community and become connected with adults and organizations in meaningful ways. They all agreed that it caused them to seek out opportunities to serve. They now see community service as a fundamental part of a fulfilling life. (To hear their full comments, visit www.nnycpodcast.com). 

    This year’s YPC is preparing to make its $20,000 in grant recommendations. Nonprofit organizations should take note of some emerging trends of this generation:  

  • They take very seriously the responsibility of being entrusted with other people’s money.  
  • They prefer to provide support for the heart of a program, project or initiative. 
  • They are not inclined to offer help unless they are confident in the organization’s ability to do what they say they will do. They expect accountability and good stewardship. 
  • They don’t allow geographic “boundaries” to get in the way of supporting something worthwhile.
  • Despite “youth” in its name, YPC members see their mission and responsibility as transcending programs that exclusively benefit young people. 
  • They understand the balance between supporting basic human needs with enriching the quality of life. 
  • They demonstrate an ability to remain assertive while respecting, valuing and appreciating opposing points of view.
  • They do not want to be underestimated or marginalized.

Youth philanthropy is, at the broadest level, passionate involvement of young adults giving of their time, talent and treasure in support of the common good, just as philanthropy is itself. The added ingredient we can all provide is the energy, excitement and spark that will continue to nurture the types of communities where all of our lives will be enriched. This helps us all to better answer the question: “What do I care about?” 

    More importantly, we affirm that we must have a desire, commitment and will to integrate caring more deliberately into our daily lives. There should be no doubt that we all benefit from a community and a world where authentic caring, respect and stewardship is valued, expected, affirmed, and non-negotiable. By learning from each other, we help ensure that the leadership of the past is linked to the leadership of the future. 

Inaugural ‘Celebration of Leadership’ Tuesday night in Canton

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Enjoy the Outdoors Year-Round

Judy Drabicki

Northern New York has a well-deserved reputation as a great place to raise a family. Part of what makes it great are the year-round opportunities to enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities. The four seasons, combined with vast amounts of New York state lands for hiking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, or horseback riding, pristine waters for fishing, and abundant wildlife for viewing or hunting set the stage for adventure, exploration, and good, quality family time. Let me be clear, my idea of family is broad and includes a couple with a dog, blended families, and all other combinations that individuals choose to define themselves as a family. Regardless, my point is this—the family that plays together, stays together.  

    Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Adventure NY initiative, a multiyear outdoor recreation campaign to connect families and visitors to the outdoors, estimates that New York state lands accommodate more than 75 million visitors per year. 

    Region 6, which includes eastern Lake Ontario, St. Lawrence River, Tug Hill and eastern Adirondacks has 11 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) totaling 18,795 acres in Jefferson County alone. These state lands provide wildlife habitat management and wildlife-dependent recreation. Several are located within a 20-minute drive of Watertown. 

    Lakeview WMA, in Ellisburg on State Route 3, is part of the largest natural fresh water barrier beach system in New York state. Lakeview is open to the public year-round, and some of its most beautiful areas can be seen by boat. DEC has provided boat launch sites for canoes or car top boats with a 10-horsepower limit.

    As stewards of the land and the wildlife, sometimes we must carefully manage public access to state lands to provide habitat and nesting opportunities for species that depend on these areas. Perch River WMA, which encompasses 7,800 acres in the towns of Brownville, Orleans and Pamelia in Jefferson County, is one such area where we balance public access with natural resource protection. This restricted wetland and refuge area provides habitat for several of New York’s endangered and threatened species, including bald eagles, black terns, and northern harriers (marsh hawks). By late August, the nesting and brooding season is mostly complete and the fall migration period has not yet begun. That’s when we open access to the public and it’s traditionally a huge draw for bird watchers of all ages. 

    Bird watching is one of the fastest growing outdoor recreational activities that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. Young people between the ages of 12 and 18 can get involved in the State’s “I Bird NY” beginning bird challenge. This past spring, more than 100 young people completed the challenge and became I Bird NYers.

    In September, Rich Schmitt of Rochester took his 13-year old son and the child’s 14-year old friend hunting at Perch River WMA. He wrote to us in an email that the boys ended up with eight blue-winged and three green-winged teal. “It’s always fun to see the younger kids have a successful hunt,” said Mr. Schmitt.

    For the nature observer and hiker, we have many miles of well-marked trails in all areas of the five-county area of Region 6. In May, we cut the ribbon on new improvements at the John Young trail, which make it more accessible to visitors. This newly accessible, 2,000-foot trail is located within the Tug Hill State Forest at Barnes Corners. Our focus is on inclusion, and accessibility improvements invite people with mobility issues and families with children in strollers to our state lands.

    Camping is an amazing opportunity to live off the “grid” for a short amount of time. Visitors can choose from three DEC campgrounds in Region 6; or find primitive camp spots on state lands. Even teenagers sometimes reluctant to spend time with their families enjoy sitting around the camp fire after enjoying a meal cooked over a propane camp stove or sitting quietly around the fire taking time to gaze at the stars. And don’t forget, every fourth grader in New York is eligible to visit one of the state’s day use areas at a DEC campground for free.

    These opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, and many more, can be found on our DEC website, at www.dec.ny.gov where a drop-down menu under Recreation provides a treasure trove of information about available opportunities. Our regional office is also more than happy to take your phone calls at 315-785-2239 to help visitors find a great place to recreate with their families.

                Whether it’s active or passive, back country or front country, on land or water, I recommend that all New Yorkers—and visitors, too—do their family’s physical and mental health a favor and enjoy New York’s great outdoors!

2017 Class of 20 Under 40 Announced

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Excelling in Leadership: Personal and professional growth bonds NNY businesses, communities

AMANDA MORRISON / NNY BUSINESS
Kylie Peck, President & CEO of the Greater Watertown North Country Chamber of Commerce, helps to coordinate the Jefferson Leadership Institute .

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June 20 Questions: Josh LaFave

CHRISTOPHER LENNEY / NNY BUSINESS
Joshua J. LaFave, Executive Director of Graduate and Continuing Education.

The St. Lawrence Leadership Institute has restarted after a six-year break. The program is run by the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with SUNY Potsdam. NNY Business sat down with Josh LaFave, executive director of graduate and continuing education at SUNY Potsdam and discussed his work with the Leadership Institute and it’s path forward.

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Leveraging non-positional authority

Columnist Tracy Leonard

Tracy Leonard

Entering the workforce as a young professional may sometimes cause one to doubt. Perhaps thoughts or feelings may surface suggesting that you cannot lead because of your youth or limited tenure in your position or company. I encourage you to stop and think again. In fact, youth and limited tenure may be exactly what makes you an asset!

Young professionals may not necessarily bring years of experience or significant expertise at the onset, but they can bring energy, new ideas, fresh education or academic principles, a knowledge and understanding of new and advancing technology, and a renewed perspective.

Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to be in a position of power or have an executive-level title. In fact, if you exercise your leadership skills as a young professional with genuine care, respect and passion, your self-fulfillment and contributions to others or a cause are likely to be much more desirable, effective and valuable. Your positional power does not determine your ability to be successful and happy.

Here are several ways that anyone can cultivate and exercising his or her leadership skills:

Lead by example. Do the best you can do, ask questions and try to achieve or succeed expectations. Those who give it their best and seek quality are seen as leaders.

Find a mentor. This trusted advisor can teach and guide you in a constructive partnership. Watch, listen and learn. You, as their protégé, learn from your mentor’s experience, while your mentor can also grow, learn and benefit from your fresh perspective, new ideas, knowledge and exuberance. If your organization doesn’t have a formal mentoring program, take the initiative to seek and find one on your own — choose wisely.

Step up to take on an initiative or lead a project. Some leadership opportunities, such as facilitating a committee, are engrained into the organization’s governance structure, while other organizations may require you to step up and volunteer for this role. Leading a group through a project can increase your exposure to other leaders and managers both in and outside your organization. Networking, collaboration, and two-way communication are all benefits of this type of work. While leading or facilitating an initiative may require you to come out of your comfort zone, it almost always results in some type of growth.

Speak or write about your work. Nothing establishes you as a trusted expert on a subject faster than communicating about it in a public forum. Seek out opportunities to speak at conventions, conferences or symposiums. In the office, host an educational session over lunch for your co-workers about your area of expertise. You can also share your expertise and good work by writing articles for a business magazine or journal, or even your company newsletter. Do your research, frame your presentation appropriately for your audience and be confident yet humble. This extra effort can provide a lot of extra career mileage and it will also help you grow in many ways.

Be humble, kind, honest and credible. Nothing will undermine your leadership efforts more than being a source of gossip or negative talk. Rather than complaining or pulling others down with you, step up your efforts to lead. Handle the situation in a focused and professional manner which will in turn have a positive ripple effect with those around you. Genuine positive energy yields greater productivity, increased satisfaction and improved overall morale.

Recognize, respect and show appreciation for those around you. While it may not always be easy to share the spotlight, it is important and necessary. As the common cliché goes, “there is no ‘I’ in team.” The skills, abilities and accomplishments of those working with you ultimately contribute to your success. Leverage this and help maximize their potential for the greater good. Recognize and seek to understand what it is that others have done to achieve or accomplish greatness. Thank and respect them. Show them that you care and try to emulate the positive qualities they possess.

Ask for advancement opportunities.Once you identify your passion, skills and desires regarding the next logical step for your career advancement, make it known to your supervisor. Your supervisor’s success is directly and positively affected by your success, so in most cases, your supervisor will be receptive and want to help you be successful. Work with him or her to assess your situation, identify goals and determine what you can do to position yourself for success.

These are only a few examples of things you can do to lead without positional power, but if you cultivate and exercise these things, you may find your co-workers, your supervisor and your community responding to you as a leader.

As you move up the career ladder, don’t forget to continue practicing these things. Pass them on to your coworkers, your peers and to other young professionals. After all, successful leaders are committed to the success of the people around them.