New island-wide leadership program seeks applicants

A community leadership program that has been forming for the past two years is now looking for its inaugural class.

Skagit Valley College is partnering with the Economic Development Council for Island County, Sno-Isle Libraries, the Whidbey Institute and community members to offer Leadership Whidbey, a comprehensive program for people living or working on the island who have an interest in being a leader.

Pam Wessel-Estes, the program manager, said the new program is based off of Leadership Skagit and Leadership San Juans, both of which Skagit Valley College helped start.

Foundational support from the college and the community partners and a planning grant from the Goosefoot Community Fund have helped make the program possible.

According to a press release, Leadership Whidbey’s mission is to “provide accessible, high quality development opportunities that will connect, inspire and advance transformational leadership across Whidbey Island.”

Wessel-Estes said that the program is intended to fill a gap, since Whidbey currently doesn’t have anything like it.

“We’re hoping for seasoned leaders as well as young folks,” Wessel-Estes said.

Dave Paul, the college’s director of community relations and a state representative, said he agrees.

“I think folks on Whidbey are excited to have a similar program that’s designed to help bring our community together and create a pathway for our next generation of leaders, and to help better connect current leaders across the island,” Paul said.

Members of the public, private and nonprofit sectors are encouraged to apply. Both Paul and Wessel-Estes said the program has already generated a lot of interest.

Classes will run from January to May, with eight full days of instruction that will amount to 70 hours total.

All participants will have the chance to obtain college credit.

The tuition for the five-month program is $850, with some scholarship support available.

Because of the pandemic, classes will be virtual, most likely using Zoom, but Wessel-Estes wants to assure people that the classes won’t just be about watching “a bunch of talking heads.”

If possible, there will be opportunities for small group work and activities out in the community.

A service project is a requirement of the program. Participants will choose an organization or nonprofit to work with as a volunteer.

“This is not a passive experience at all,” Wessel-Estes said. “This is about being engaged in the learning process and giving as much as you get.”

Following the model of other counties, there will be no single instructor.

Instead, several community members, from the director of the Economic Development Council to the director of Whidbey Island Center for the Arts, may each teach a class on different days.

Some of the guiding themes of the classes will include self-reflection, connections, ethical leadership and decision-making.

Applications are due by Nov. 15 with a non-refundable fee of $40.

At most, 20 applicants will be selected.

To learn more about applying, email Wessel-Estes at To make a donation to the new program, visit

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