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Leadership Niagara’s Class of 2015 graduates

Leadership Niagara honored 41 individuals and organizations at its 32nd annual graduation earlier this month at the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda.

More than 150 leaders from Western New York and Southern Ontario attended the event, which was the culmination of the Class of 2015’s leadership development program.

The graduates had the opportunity to learn and practice graduate-level leadership concepts and principles and work with over 100 industry and leadership experts across Niagara, Buffalo, and Southern Ontario.

An annual award was presented to the evening’s speaker, Joseph McMahon, president of Audubon Machinery Corp., a graduate of Leadership Niagara’s class of 2012 and current member of the organization’s board of directors.

The “Rising Star” award, new this year, was presented to Lucas Kates, a high school senior from Niagara Academy who left quite an impression when he spoke to the class at its session on education and workforce development.

“We are developing better leaders for our region,” stated Molly Anderson, president and chief executive officer of Leadership Niagara. “Our program lays the groundwork for our graduates to think differently, make connections, and achieve more.”

Since 1984, more than 1,400 participants have graduated from the Leadership Niagara program.

The 2015 graduates are:

Cassandra Barnes, coordinator for special-education at Orleans-Niagara BOCES; Natalie Beilein, program director for Be Your Own Hero; Sandra Besecker, human resources and safety manager for the Niagara Gazette; Brooke Burrows, coordinator of the Grigg Lewis Foundation; Liam Curry, chief engineer at Covanta Energy; Jennifer D’Andrea, founder of SERV Niagara; Gretchen Doty, senior services coordinator of the Dale Association;

Also, Thomas Fisher, dean of students for the Niagara Falls School District; Jessica Foscolo, attorney with Kenney Shelton Liptak Nowak LLP; Michael Freedman, associate director of public relations and manager of online content at Niagara University; Nancy Freischlag, regional branch manager at Cornerstone Community Federal Credit Union;

Also, Mark Gallo, professor of biology at Niagara University; Julie Gilbert, director of marketing and communications for the Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp.; Matthew Green, director of operations at Element Development Group; Stacey Gross, treasury management product manager at First Niagara Bank; Marc Guizzo, director of facilities at Calamar; Darlene Gurnett, senior dispatcher at the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office;

Also, Paulette Hamilton-Koehler, special-education coordinator for Orleans-Niagara BOCES; Kyle Heath, licensed relationship manager at KeyBank; Scott Hiddie, planner with General Motors in Lockport; Kimberly Hubert-Bickel, director of residential services for Heritage Christian Services; Col. Robert Kilgore, commander of the 107th Airlift Wing; Tod Kniazuk, executive director of the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York; John Lapham, chief of the North Tonawanda Fire Department; Brian Literman, engineer with General Motors of Lockport; Mary Knotts, director of community affairs with Calspan Corp.;

Also, Chris Marra, vice president and senior branch manager with M&T Bank; Brendan McIntyre, director of development with Niagara Hospice; Darius Myles, owner of DMYLES Inc.; Daniel Norton, director of psychological health with the 914th Airlift Wing; Diane Phelps, president of the Niagara-Orleans School Board Association; Kristin Rhodes, coordinator of leadership development for Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled; Franca Romeo, president of Romeo Accounting; Jaime Ruggiero, president of Jobena Bar & Restaurant Essentials;

And, Maggie Russell, ecommerce manager for the Sheraton at the Falls; Ryan Sinatra, security supervisor with the New York Power Authority; Brian Smith, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Lockport Development Corp.; Sue Swiatkowski, director of marketing with Global Spectrum, the Conference and Event Center of Niagara Falls; Jennifer Traver, medical administrative officer with the 107th Airlift Wing; Chief Master Sgt. Michael Zimmerman, loadmaster superintendent with the 914th Airlift Wing; and Michael Zimmerman, executive director of the Lumber City Development Corp.