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The Telos Institute leadership program gives underserved youth a shot at success

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Posted at 10:41 AM, Jun 23, 2022

SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio — For years, the world's leaders in business and industry have been turning to a Northeast Ohio development firm to hone their skills.

The Telos Institute has now extended its training and mentorship to under-served youth.

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

"They have a heart for the youth. These people are committed to their future," said Ron Soeder, Telos Leadership Foundation Director.

The program gives college students, and those early in their career, a chance to grow their skills.

"We've got tremendous diversity in age, ethnicity, income," said Soeder.

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

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Participants in the Telos Institute.

"Once the alumni graduate from the boys and girls club they don't have a lot that's next," said Soeder.

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

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

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Participants in the Telos Institute.

The leadership outreach includes personal coaches offering advice on careers, financial literacy, network building and self-care.

"Getting outside walking, hiking, building healthy habits, meditating," said Soeder.

For 29-year-old Sinegugu Gasa, the 10-month program has been eye-opening.

"I don't get to do stuff like this in my life, so this has been great. I learned a little bit about some of the strengths that I have," said Gasa.

Gasa said she is also inspired as she looks to the future.

"You can do it. No matter where you come from, no matter what kind of circumstances you've been through, you can make something of yourself and your future is in your hands," said Gasa.

Right now, these emerging leaders are looking at ways to re-purpose three vacant lots in Cleveland.

"One in Slavic Village, one in the Glenville neighborhood and one on the west side," said Soeder.

They'll get about $40,000 for each lot to implement their ideas.

"A community garden, having continuous events, food distribution, partnering with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank," said Gasa.

The emerging leaders will also be on site to help build their plans from the ground up.

"Not only can you grow as a leader, but you can provide service, you can provide benefit to the communities that they live in, and many live very close to these two lots," said Soeder.

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

"Helping them find careers that are here, giving them mentors that are able to open doors for them, that will keep them here," said Soeder.