The sixth annual Leadership Carbon program, a nine-month program designed to improve leadership qualities in the participants, kicked off Wednesday morning with a breakfast at the Galleria in Lake Harmony.

Twelve individuals are enrolled in this year's Leadership Carbon class, which is sponsored by the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce.

The program has a new look from prior years.

Elissa Garafalo, of the Leadership Carbon Steering Committe, said some changes were made after consulting with former participants and with similar leadership groups in other counties.

One of the changes is that this year Leadership Carbon not only has teamed with Lehigh Carbon Community College, but also brought in a professional facilitator to assist with facilitating the program. She is Judy Bowen, who was introduced to the class.

Another change is that each month the class will initially meet at the Kovatch Corporation headquarters in Nesquehoning, and then possibly head to various other locations. In past years, meetings began at different sites every month throughout the county.

Dawn Farrante, executive director of the Carbon County Economic Development Corporation, is a past graduate of Leadership Carbon. She serves on Leadership Carbon's Board of Directors.

"I really see this program as incredibly valuable," she told the class, which is all adults and consists of a spectrum of professions from bank managers to sales personnel to a housewife.

She said because of the partnering iwth the community college, each graduate will become certified in leadership training.

Garafalo presented a history of Leadership Carbon, noting it originally was a project of Partners for Progress, a visioning group in Carbon County.

Comments were also made by Jack Sturm, vice chairman of the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce; Maureen Donovan, asssitant director workforce & community services of the LCCC Morgan Center in Tamaqua; Carbon County Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, and Chuck Dickinson, project manager of The Resort at Split Rock.

One corporate representative present was asked whether it was difficult to fill employment positions. The representative said a major problem is that 40 percent of the applicants fail substance abuse testing.

Dickinson noted that he has been instrumental in forming a leadership management program at the Monroe County Vocational School. He said the program has been a proven success, noting that last year the students not only won in state competitions but advanced to national competition and won first place.

He said regarding leadership training, "Whether it's 10th graders, or the adults around this room, it's critical we make it happen."

Members of the 2012 Leadership Carbon Class are:

* Katie A. Garvey, Blue Mountain Health Systems.

* Scott P. Kane, First Niagara Bank.

* Monica A. Marshall, Jim Thorpe National Bank.

* Cassandra McSparin, RGA Public Relations.

* Mark Slivka, Edwards Business Systems.

* Akantha Susko, True North Advertising and Marketing.

* Tammy Lynn George, Blue Mountain Health Systems.

* Camara Klotz, KME/ Kovatch Organization.

* Heather L. McClure, Carbon County Chamber of Commerce.

* Anthony J. Postupack, Mauch Chunk Trust Company.

* Elizabeth A. Steffy, St. Luke's Miner's Memorial Hospital.

* Joseph J. Urban, Pencor Services.