Once a leader, always a leader.

That was a central theme conveyed to members of the Leadership Carbon Class of 2012

Leadership Carbon, a program of the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce, hosted a dinner event to celebrate the graduating class Wednesday at the Mahoning Valley Country Club.

Patrick H. Reilly, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mauch Chunk Trust Company, and past president of Carbon County Partners for Progress, served as master of ceremonies.

The welcoming address was by Jack Sturm, vice president of the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce.

Carbon County Commissioners' Chairman Wayne Nothstein, of the Leadership Carbon Steering Committee, offered the invocation.

Micah Gursky, director of development of the St. Luke's Hospital, Miners Campus, and an alumnus of the Leadership Carbon class of 2008, served as keynote speaker.

Gursky told the group that he was very proud to be a Leadership Carbon graduate.

He then lauded the class for its group project, "Guiding Carbon Youth to Inspire Community Growth".

"I'd like to congratulate you for going through this program and class project that you did," Gursky said. "Your project to engage young people in your community is very good."

Gursky told the class that there are youth who are in need of leaders to steer them in the right direction.

"This is not the end of your leadership experience; this is only the beginning," he said. "I encourage you to take what you've learned and stay engaged in your community."

Mark Slivka, a member of this year's class, said he met a lot of people through the program.

Slivka then recognized Sandy Duda, program coordinator, for all her time, as well as Judy Bowen, professional facilitator.

"She's (Bowen) the reason why this class was so amazing," Slivka said. "She is a true asset; she is the reason why we are here today."

Monica Marshall, a member of this year's class, then gave a presentation that detailed the group's project.

Marshall said the group met up with four local schools to have the students get associated with nonprofit organizations.

Donald Snyder, president of Lehigh Carbon Community College, told the class it was a great pleasure to be before the class.

"I think everyone here should be proud of what you did," Snyder said. "Congratulations to all of you."

State Rep. Doyle Heffley shared with the class some of the lessons he's learned over the years about leadership.

"Everything that comes up is an opportunity for leadership," Heffley said. "Always look at an opportunity as a way to show leadership and provide leadership."

The graduates were then presented with several awards, gifts, and certificates.

Members of the Class of 2012 were: Katie A. Garvey, Blue Mountain Health System; Tammy L. George, Blue Mountain Health System; Scott P. Kane, First Niagara Bank; Camara M. Klotz, KME/Kovatch Corporation; Monica A. Marshall, Jim Thorpe National Bank; Heather L. McClure, Carbon County Chamber of Commerce; Cassandra McSparin, RGA Public Relations; Anthony J. Postupack, Mauch Chunk Trust Company; Mark C. Slivka, Edwards Business Systems; Elizabeth Steffy, St. Luke's Hospital, Miner's Campus; Akantha Susko, True North Advertising & Marketing; and Joseph J. Urban.

In order to graduate, class members had to complete a nine-month program about all things Carbon County, and attended monthly sessions since September.

Each morning was dedicated to local topics such as government, economic development, education, culture/diversity, health care, business, environment and recreation; while the afternoon sessions were dedicated to specific leadership skills and team building. Participation in the group project was also a requirement.

Elissa Garafalo, chairperson of the Leadership Carbon Steering Committee, noted this was the seventh class to graduate since the program's inception eight years ago.

Garafalo congratulated the entire class on its achievement, and noted that Dawn Ferrante, executive director of the Carbon County Economic Development Corporation, introduced the class to a new curriculum.

She then shared 10 reasons to enroll in the Leadership Carbon Class of 2013. The application deadline is June 30, 2012.

Visit www.LeadershipCarbon.com [2] to learn about the program, call Duda at (610) 377-4063, or email leadershipcarbon@carboncountychamber.org [3].

The Leadership Carbon Program was created by the Carbon County Partners for Progress to help develop a new class of local leaders for the future. To date, participants have included government officials, interested community leaders and individuals who live or work in Carbon County. More than 70 individuals have completed the program.