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Leaders offer diverse perspectives

Photo via William Craine.

Outside the university walls is a world full of leaders. You don’t have to go too far to find some incredible ones.

Through the Lens of Leaders, an event put on by Bradley Fellows, hosted a panel featuring four leaders from the Peoria area on Thursday evening to speak about their leadership experience. The room quickly filled with students who were eager to learn from those who power the local community.

Each of the four leaders had a unique background and all were keen on sharing their stories, their successes, their failures and their advice. Questions were prepared by Bradley Fellows, but students were also given a chance to submit their questions to the panel anonymously.

Panelist Monica Hendrickson has been the public health administrator of Peoria City Health Department since 2017 and told students about her challenges in making big decisions after college.

“Not knowing what your next step is is pretty scary,” Hendrickson said.

Kim Thomas, 2016 Illinois Teacher of the Year, was eager to share her experiences along with a fair amount of math puns. She has taught for 26 years and is currently teaching at the Peoria County Alternative School: an institution for students who have been expelled.

“Leaders are those that help others become better,” Thomas said.

Panelist Carl Cannon, founder of the ELITE Youth Program for High School Youth, spoke about his experience as a correctional officer and how he now helps those released from prison stay out.

“The hardest part of success is getting started,” Cannon said.

Panelist Elizabeth Jenson, councilwoman and attorney, is currently using her experience for the city of Peoria and advocates for the community.

“I may be small, but I am mighty. I am persistent,” Jensen said.

With such diverse backgrounds, the speakers were able to inspire students of all majors.

“It was really interesting to see, especially the correctional officer who was once keeping people in prison and is now keeping people out of prison … that was a pretty amazing story,” said junior television arts major Sam Kuhlmeyer. “You can just see the passion when he’s talking and how much he loved what he did, and I think that’s so important.”

Overall, the event was a great opportunity for students to hear from the people that make a difference.

“It was an interesting way to get to know the different leaders in our community that have such a big impact,” said junior special education major Julia Niklewicz. “Coming to events like this help you in your own future.”

Junior English major Megan Wagner said she found the event motivating.

“It was interesting to learn about leadership that I was very much unfamiliar to and it kind of got me passionate in wanting to do something,” said Wagner.

Senior elementary education major Ryan Lutker, the Leadership Committee director for Bradley Fellows, said the best way to learn about leadership is through others.

“I think it’s really good for Bradley students to see the kind of work that’s being done in the community and perhaps be inspired to do that kind of work in the Peoria community or in their home communities as well,” Lutker said.

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