FORT DRUM, N.Y. (June 8, 2018) -- Fort Drum garrison senior leaders, family and friends gathered at the Commons on June 7 to honor the latest graduating class from the Leader Enhancement and Developmental Education Requirements program.

The LEADER Program Class VI graduates are: Saing Alibudbud, MEDDAC; Jessica Ashley, MEDDAC; Judy Bresett, DPW; Mio Franceschi, DHR; Tracey Jones, MEDDAC; Amy Kilionski, DHR; Heather Mauney, DHR; and Denise Smith, CPAC.

John Kadaraitis, Fort Drum workforce management specialist, said that this was the sixth class to graduate at Fort Drum, and the first one since it transitioned from a 48-month program to an intense 24-month program. He also noted that most of the curriculum carried over into the shorter timeframe, which required a greater commitment to those who enrolled.

"During this 24-month program they had to complete over 200 hours of both online and classroom training, and that is quite a bit of training," Kadaraitis said. "During that, they had three eight month tiers and each had 10 hours of DEOs, or what we call developmental experience opportunities."

Kadaraitis said that the DEOs are designed to take the students away from their normal workday routine and expose them to new experiences. He said that could mean anything from attending a budget meeting with a different department or sitting in on a school board meeting.

The curriculum also included job shadowing, public speaking and an oral presentation. Additionally, the students had to complete three group projects. For their first, the class planned and organized a Civilian of the Quarter ceremony.

"Usually, we have 250 to 300 employees across the installation who attend that luncheon, and it was their job to host it," Kadaraitis said. "Think of all the logistics that go behind that, from reserving the room, selecting the menu, picking a theme, getting it advertised and creating the programs - right down to picking out the centerpiece for the tables.

The class was also tasked with developing the peer-to-peer award program, which is now being implemented into the Fort Drum garrison award policy. In the last tier project, the group briefed Brenda McCullough, director of Installation Management Command-Readiness.

"They had to put together the brief - come up with a concept, rehearse it and, when it came to executing it, they were flawless," Kadaraitis said. "I would expect nothing less from this group whatsoever."

The students decided to develop an additional project on their own, and they designed the LEADER program logo. The image represents growth to full leadership potential, with specific colors to represent intellect, energy and optimism (yellow); trust, confidence and loyalty (blue); strength, determination and passion (red).

Kadaraitis said that the logo will now be included in all material associated with the LEADER program at Fort Drum, and the next class will be tasked with the project of trademarking the logo.

Amy Kilionski, one of the eight graduates, said that it was a long two years filled with both personal and professional challenges. One of which was transitioning into a new job and learning new responsibilities while keeping current with the course curriculum.

"It was amazing to have been overcome some of the things that had gotten in my way, and I feel great about finishing the program," she said.
Kilionski said the course included a lot of networking and interaction with agencies outside of her normal areas of operation.

"That was one of the most beneficial things that I experienced because it got me outside of my comfort zone and allowed me to get into areas I would never have before taking this program," Kilionski said.

In attendance at the graduation was Terrence Harris, associate vice president for workforce development and business at Jefferson Community College. Kadaraitis said that he contacted Harris about the LEADER program to review the syllabus. Now, LEADER program graduates can receive six college credits to further their education goals at JCC.

Col. Kenneth D. Harrison, Fort Drum garrison commander, congratulated the graduates on their success, and also the workforce development team of Kadaraitis and Brian O'Connor for their efforts in providing this type of opportunity for civilian employees.

"What a great accomplishment," Harrison said. "What we are talking about here is leadership, and that is not something you can teach with Powerpoint slides. You can't sit in a classroom and be taught leadership. We develop leadership."

Harrison said that the LEADER program works because it allows an employee to continue their careers without pause, while learning, applying and developing leadership skills.

"I think it's an extremely good approach, and I think the graduates here today benefit more from it," Harrison said. "It was a lot of work while you still did your jobs, and I commend you for that. Thank you for all that hard work. Not only did you do the work, but you provided feedback into the course and that will make this better for the next class. Not only did you get the professional development for yourself, but you're making it better for everyone else."

Harrison said that the skills they've acquired through the LEADER program will not only make them better leaders, but it will make others around them better employees.

"It's going to reflect on everything you do. You are also going to develop those who work for you, your subordinates, your peers and even your supervisors," Harrison said. "I'm really looking forward to seeing this organization grow from what you have learned and all the hard work you did."

Kilionski said that people interested in attending the LEADER program should know what is going to be required of them before making the commitment.

"There are many requirements and deadlines, so you have to take it very seriously and manage your time, but also enjoy every part of it and learn from everybody," she said.

To learn more about the LEADER program and inquire about when the next class will be available, contact Workforce Development staff at (315) 772-5226 or 772-5635.