When Karen Cherry, a principal at Lee & Associates, joined the Premier Class of 2015, her family officially set the record as the first three-generation family to participate in Leadership Howard County (LHC). Her father, Dick Story, was a member of the Class of 1995, and her daughter, Ryann Marchetti, participated in the Leadership U Class of 2012.

Being an integral part of the community in which they live, work, go to school and enjoy a wide network of friends and professional contacts is obviously a bedrock value for the Story family.

What part has Leadership Howard County played in nurturing their personal and professional networks? It turns out the program offered some unexpected benefits, even for those who already were well-acquainted with the community.

The Story Starts

“When I was recruited to come to Howard County, I was on the board of Leadership Baltimore County,” recalled Dick Story, senior vice president, director of community relations & government affairs, business development liaison at Howard Bank, “and already had been executive director of economic development programs in two neighboring counties, as well as similar positions in several chamber-like organizations.

“Obviously, as an ‘expert,’ I pretty much knew it all, and didn’t need leadership ‘coaching.’ At the time, I didn’t realize how misguided my thoughts were.”

Karen had grown up hearing stories of the “Best Class Ever” from 1995, as well as observing her father’s dedication to LHC in the years when he served as board chair, on many committees and as an integral force in building the Leadership Essentials and Leadership U programs.

Aside from following in her father’s footsteps, she knew the Leadership connections would help her find a meaningful direction of her own to give back to the community.

“In addition to my family members, I’ve had several friends and colleagues go through the program,” she said. “I kept hearing from each and every one of them how beneficial the time was that they spent going through the program.

“I had reached a point in my life where I was looking for something else; I wanted to be able to contribute more to the community and to give back. I didn’t know how to start, but I knew that Leadership Howard County would point me in the right direction. I also knew that in order to take my career to the next level, I would need to do more to make meaningful connections with the influential people in our community. There is no stronger network than the Leadership alumni.”

The Rest of the Story

Ryann completed the Leadership U program in 2012 and is now a freshman at Kent State University. For her, one of the most beneficial aspects of the program was meeting new people from schools across Howard County.

“The people I met and the relationships I created meant the most to me,” she said. “We were exposed to so many different people in our community throughout our time in the program. We had to communicate with them in person [and] through e-mails and phone calls for our service projects.”

Now a Resident Assistant in Training at Kent State, she said, “I am learning things about communicating with people that I already learned from Leadership U. It really has prepared me for the tasks and challenges presented to us in this position.”

As an active member of the LHC community since he graduated in 1995, Dick has seen the program continue to evolve and achieve its goals of attracting talented leaders with a desire to make a difference in the community.

“In the early years, some pondered how quickly we would exhaust the number of leaders available to participate in the program that today we call Leadership Premier,” he said. “We shouldn’t have worried; 30 years later, the quality and quantity of participants continues to be superior.”

In addition, he noted, “Expanding the original program begun in 1985 to include Leadership Essentials and Leadership U has kept us relevant for the participants and the community we serve.”

Storied Advice

Asked to offer advice to those considering applying to the Leadership programs, all three agree: “Just do it.”

“The time and money I spent going through this program have already yielded dividends far beyond my investment,” said Karen. “The people that you will meet through this program, including classmates, alumni and community members, will change your life for the better. I have grown as a person, as a member of the community and as a business professional through my participation in Leadership Howard County.”

Ryann agreed. “Put yourself out there. Be visible in your community, and do what you can to make people’s lives better. If you have questions, ask questions. It is proven that it makes people feel good to help other people, so ask for help if you need help.”

Dick’s 1995 classmate Joanne Davis learned how much fun being in a class with a Story can be. “Dick has always been ready, willing and able to take on new initiatives and make them successful as well as fun. No surprise that he’d produce can-do generations to follow him. It’s wonderful to see his family’s influence in creating a Leadership legacy.”

Sue Emerson is director of Communications & Business Development, Leadership Howard County. She can be reached at [email protected].