Shannon Harnichar knew she wanted to help make the Mahoning Valley a better place when she applied to be a member of Leadership Mahoning Valley's class of 2013.
Harnichar was encouraged to apply for the program by the CEO of Niles Homes for Kids, where she is the director of Foster Care. Homes for Kids' CEO Matt Kresic had a good experience when he was involved in the program last year as a member of the 2012 class, Harnichar said.
''I'm very honored and feel very fortunate to have been picked,'' Harnichar said.
Shannon Harnichar, director of Foster Care with Homes for Kids in Niles, was recently selected to be part of the 2013 class at Leadership Mahoning Valley. Leadership Mahoning Valley is a non-profit corporation that identifies community leaders to address challenges facing the Mahoning Valley. The program runs from September to May.
With more than 18 years with Homes for Kids, Harnichar is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of the treatment of the foster care programs, including making sure the facility remains compliant with its contractual obligations with the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. Homes for Kids works with county Childrens Services boards throughout the Mahoning Valley to place children with behavioral or special needs.
The program, which runs September through May, kicked off with a two day retreat Sept. 13 and 14 at Das Dutch Village Inn in Columbiana. During the retreat, Harnichar and 22 other Leadership Mahoning Valley classmates learned what their responsibilities would be over the next 10 months.
''A lot of us take advantage of what the Mahoning Valley has to offer,'' Harnichar said. ''But with this program, we learn how we can collaborate to bring solutions to problems that face the valley.''
Some of these problems include poverty, blighted neighborhoods, crime and gang activities and unemployment, Harnichar said.
Over the next few months, the class will be put in charge of a class project of their own choosing, she said. The classmates also will be visiting other businesses and industry and will get out into the community to learn more about the project that they choose together.
''We have to decide, who are we going to help?'' Harnichar said.
Currently in its 28th year, Leadership Mahoning Valley seeks to identify existing and emerging leaders in the region. Class members are chosen based on their leadership qualities and their commitment to the community.
The goals of the organization are to develop a leadership network that not only enables members to work more effectively in their own profession, but also to enable members to use the network to benefit the Mahoning Valley.