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30 Students From Extended COVID “Year” Still With Program And Expected To Graduate This Spring
By Tina Traster
The 2020 class of Leadership Rockland is set to graduate in 2021 due to COVID. But all 30 students have stayed the course even though the format went virtual and the course extended beyond the anticipated one-year period.
Now, having figured out the way forward in our “brave new world,” Leadership Rockland is recruiting for the next class, which will begin September 2021. April 1 is the deadline for applications but early submissions by March 1 come with a $100 tuition discount.
Known as Rockland County’s “Master’s Degree” program, the annual course costs $1,200.
The class that began in 2019, which marks the program’s 30th anniversary, found themselves upended due to COVID. Classes were suspended in mid-March, halfway in. Leadership Rockland organizers polled participants to find out if they wanted find to continue virtually.
They chose the latter.
“All 30 are still with the program and expected to graduate this spring,” said Vivian England, the program’s chair, and the Legislative Liaison to the Chair of the Rockland County Legislature.
Founded in 1991, Leadership Rockland is a program that connects participants with leaders from business, government, healthcare, education, not-for-profits. and other sectors in Rockland County. The program is a smorgasbord of 11 classes over 10 months that builds knowledge, imparts insight, and fosters lifelong networks. Field trips in the past have included visits to libraries, hospitals, police departments, and the Rockland County jail.
Pre-Covid, the program included talks with guest lecturers, class-room activities, and on-site visits to see how things really work. Learning virtually, as every student knows, comes with its challenges but also opportunities. Leadership Rockland organizers say current class that will graduate this spring is as bonded as any of the previous 700 alumni, even if their experience has been different. Or perhaps because it has been so unique.
The class did meet once in October outdoors at Camp Venture and have shared virtual holiday parties and other Zoom break-out groups for networking. During the holiday party, participants played a game of “Trivia” based on what had been learned through the program.
Wednesday Wine Down, a virtual “happy hour” event with speakers also brought strong attendance.
Of course, COVID itself factored into the experience this past year.
“Part of what has brought us together this year is coping through COVID,” said England.
It is still unclear what shape next year’s program will take. Much depends on how fast the population is vaccinated, whether the new virus variants cause a setback, and when people feel comfortable to start gathering again. Presumably, many educational institutions will continue to offer hybrids of in-person and virtual learning.
“Leadership is not one thing,” said Katie Mahon, co-chair of the recruitment committee and an alumna. “It has taught me you have to lead with compassion, kindness, and most of all, flexibility.”
Strand also points out Leadership Rockland teaches participants about the inner workings of various sectors but more importantly it creates enduring bonds.
“We’ve had people who attended the program get married and have a baby,” she said.