Check back often for the latest news regarding Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.

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  • 17 Jan 2019 1:20 PM | Katie Robinson (Administrator)

    On January 9, YLNI’s Leadership Institute program kicked off with forty emerging leaders meeting for the first time at Crazy Pinz for an evening of getting to know each other, and fun. Why Crazy Pinz, you might ask? YLNI connects young professionals through social, professional, and community engagement. Crazy Pinz offers a great space for gathering and creating the social capital needed to make a program like Leadership Institute successful. Pizza, beer, and bowling – what better way to break the ice and show your vulnerable side than by barely breaking 100 in bowling!

     The YLNI Leadership Institute brings all three pillars of our organization together: social, professional, and community engagement. Since 2006, over 400 community leaders have completed Leadership Institute. These young professionals participate in six sessions over the course of three months to advance their career skills and professional development. Through hands-on instruction, small group activities, personal reflection, and sharing, participants develop skills needed to help them grow in their careers and community. Topics range from personality recognition and communication effectiveness to board stewardship and diversity in the workplace. Participants graduate with a new and increased social network that can be used to bounce ideas off of each other. They are made more aware of community activities and the role they play in making them successful. Connectivity begins to happen and, as a result, an attachment to community is developed. These are all outcomes that business and community leaders want to see from a leadership development program.

    YLNI has hosted 14 Leadership Institute programs to date. The popularity of the program has grown to the extent that the application process is extremely competitive, with potential Institute participants having to apply multiple times before they are accepted. This year, eight of the 40 applicants accepted were applying to the program for the second time. The variety of professions represented is also extremely diverse this year. Thirty-one different employers are represented in this year’s class. This diverse population creates an excellent network of young professionals from a variety of fields that this cohort will have access to for the remainder of their careers.

    The first session for the 2019 Leadership Institute begins this Friday, January 18. Our board members, and myself particularly as the Director at Large for Leadership Development, are all excited to see the transformation that these leaders will go through during the six sessions. Just as YLNI’s mission is “to attract, retain, and develop emerging leaders through social, professional, and community engagement,” these program participants will be much more devoted to the community of Northeast Indiana, strengthening their resolve to invest their talents here.

    Congratulations, class of 2019! I can’t wait to see what you do!

    Rena Burden, Director at Large - Leadership Development

  • 21 Dec 2018 12:49 PM | Katie Robinson (Administrator)

    Congratulations to the following emerging leaders who will take part in the 2019 YLNI Leadership Institute!

    Andrea Aboufadel (MedPro Grouo)
    Stephen Anstett (Alro Steel)
    Anna Baer (City of Fort Wayne)
    Samuel Battistone (Purdue Fort Wayne - Athletics)
    Nathan Berndt (ThermaTru)
    Michael Bianski (Indiana Michigan Power)
    Doug Blomeke (Steel Dynamics)
    Tori Bontrager (Parkview Health)
    Britney Breidestein (Easterseals Arc of Northeast Indiana)
    Ian Broad-White (Park Center, Inc.)
    Matthew Brown (Bowen Center)
    Haley Chaires (Ash Brokerage)
    Julianne Cogley-Pifko (Manchester University Pharmacy Prog.)
    James Couchman (Ambassador Enterprises)
    Apurva Dubhashi (Steel Dynamics)
    Lindsey Dutrieux (Purdue University Fort Wayne)
    Lauren Elliott (Design Collaborative)
    Craig Fischer (First Federal Bank)
    Mariana Glover (Indiana Tech)
    Jaclyn Goldsborough (Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership)
    McKenzie Grubb (Manchester University Pharmacy Program)
    Randi Harvey (Parkview Health)
    Joshua Hendricks (Fort Wayne City Utilities)
    Amy Hetrick (Fort Wayne Metals)
    Trent Hullinger (Fort Wayne Police Department)
    Cassie Kurtz (Parkview Health)
    Rebecca Martin (Design Collaborative)
    Marcus McMillen (LABOV)
    Morgan Olson (Fort Wayne TinCaps)
    Giang Petroviak (Empyrean Events and Catering)
    Megan Posey (GiveHear)
    Kristen Powell (Lacie's Exclusive Hair Design)
    Ryan Powell (Lincoln Financial Group)
    Justin Uffelman (C.H. Robinson)
    Austin Valade (3Rivers FCU)
    Jessica Waggoner (Do It Best)
    Nicholas Weaver (Sweetwater Sound)
    Sean Weigand (The DeHayes Group)
    Cody Weikel (3Rivers FCU)
    Chelsea Wolpert (Garrett State Bank)

    The 2019 Leadership Institute will kickoff in January!

  • 14 Nov 2018 9:50 AM | Chris Polhamus (Administrator)

    In 2004, a group of emerging young leaders met at a restaurant to discuss how they, as a group, could make an impact in northeast Indiana in an effort to attract new talent to the area as well as retain talent already here. Officially established in 2005, Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana is in its 13th year of working to attract, develop, and retain emerging leaders through community, professional, and social engagement. We’ve grown, we’ve expanded, and our presence and voice can be felt throughout Fort Wayne. If there’s one thing I regret about my personal involvement with YLNI, it’s that I didn’t join sooner and take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to our members.

    There are many reasons to become a paid member of YLNI, but the most important is that your dollars – only $45 annually – support our organization’s programming. Consider it an investment into your own community. To support this, here are thirteen reasons – one for each year we’ve been making an impact in northeast Indiana – why you should join YLNI.

    1. Your membership fee is an investment in emerging young leaders throughout northeast Indiana. The annual membership fee helps YLNI make all of the programs I’ve mentioned a possibility, most of them at no cost or low cost to attendees. We wouldn’t exist without a solid, strong member base. I am grateful to be part of this group of nearly 300 paid members, with new people joining regularly, and so many community leaders supporting and cheering our efforts every day.

    2. The High School Leadership Institute is offered at no cost to participating students, thanks in part to our membership fees. In June 2018, 19 high school students from throughout Allen County completed the inaugural program. They learned a lot from local leaders, but YLNI leadership learned a lot from them, too. Imagine if this program had existed when you were entering your junior or senior year of high school, and you could have participated for the low cost of just showing up because young leaders in your community saw value in developing your age group.

    3. Your voice will matter in local advocacy for community initiatives, as we survey our member base for their opinions on issues that matter to young leaders in northeast Indiana. Through the efforts of our Community Engagement and Advocacy committee, collectively, YLNI has made statements and taken positions on several local initiatives. These include but are not limited to the development of Parkview Field, Fort Wayne Riverfront development, the development of Electric Works, the redevelopment of The Landing, and Right-to-Work efforts.

    4. You’re supporting the YLNI Farmers Market, a summer weekend destination for thousands of residents and visitors to Fort Wayne that was established in 2005. Happening on Barr Street between Wayne and Berry Streets at the historic Barr Street plaza located behind The History Center, the market is available to vendors for a very low rental fee. Local human resources professionals and C-suite level executives have told YLNI leadership that the market is one of the things they always mention when recruiting new employees. It attracts talent, which is our objective in all our efforts.

    5. Local music thrives as a result of your investment at the Living Fort Wayne Concert Series. The free concert series just completed its fifth year. The events put local musicians in the spotlight while music goers enjoy dinner available from local food trucks and drinks from a local bar, all happening at Headwaters Park. It’s the perfect summer celebration using one of our city’s great parks, giving local musicians a chance to build their fan base through performance, and giving local chefs the opportunity to share their food with the masses. You’re missing out if you haven’t attended a Living Fort Wayne concert, which is partially supported through membership fees.

    6.  You're supporting leadership development in emerging young leaders through Leadership Institute, which has an alumni network of over 400. This is one of YLNI’s most successful programs. The 2019 class will be the 14th group to go through the course, which has grown and evolved since 2006. Aimed to develop the leadership skills of participants, the Leadership Institute can easily be credited as the program that brought me closer to YLNI. If you’re looking for a way to expand your network and develop your professional skills, consider applying for this program, held annually from January through April.

    7. You’re part of a network behind the Fort Wayne Commitment and Inclusivity Pledge. The Pledge has been signed by over 50 local businesses, and members of Fort Wayne’s City Council. Business leaders continue to sign the pledge, which was initiated in early 2017. YLNI believes in the pledge and the businesses represented on it who promise to “promote a working environment that is welcoming and conducive to the success of all.” By joining, you are part of a network promoting inclusivity in northeast Indiana.

    8. You’ll have the opportunity to make an actual difference in your city by joining one of the committees working to create unique opportunities in Fort Wayne. You get back as much as you put in. I joined YLNI in 2014 and my involvement has only grown since. Some join to network. Others join to build their leadership skills. Whatever your reason, we have a place for you to make a difference!

    9. Membership fees allow for low-cost opportunities to meet with, talk to, and get to know local leaders who will help you grow as a leader, and who regularly collaborate with YLNI to move the needle on necessary community initiatives. Want to spend your summer lunch hours getting to personally know a local leader? Apply for the Power Lunch Series. Interested in learning how the owners of local businesses became successful? Hear their story straight from them, and get the chance to ask them questions at View from the Top. The leaders in our community want to hear from our demographic! These are unique opportunities to building relationships with some of them.

    10. Monthly Hot Spots allow members and non-members to network and learn about our programs, as well as get to know each other professionally and personally. Taking place on the third Thursday of each month, Hot Spots happen at different locations to give us a view inside different restaurants around town. Come have a drink with us after work, learn about our programs from those already involved, and make a few new friends.

    11. Speaking of friends, that’s one of the best reasons to join YLNI. Friends. You’ll find some awesome people involved with YLNI. I’ve developed lasting relationships with so many people as a result of my involvement!

    12. Members are invited to cool community events, like the NYE Bash that we’re partnering with Don Hall’s to host on New Year’s Eve! If your friends are struggling to make solid plans for one of the biggest party nights of the year, YLNI has got you covered! This is only one of many community partnerships we’re involved with. We depend on the community to fully support us since we’re 100% volunteer based. We give back to them as often as we’re able to do so.

    13. Our members have the opportunity to write about things they’re passionate about in our community through the Living Fort Wayne blog. Writers highlight events, places to explore, and more in the blog. Learn more about where to hang out and what’s happening around town, and better yet, write about what you think is blog-worthy by volunteering with Living Fort Wayne.

    If you’re interested in any of these things, please reach out to me! I am happy to connect you with any of our committees, give you general information about our organization, or join you at your first Hot Spot. If you’ve thought about joining but haven’t yet… what are you waiting for?

    Kourtney Teegardin, VP of Membership

  • 29 Oct 2018 12:58 PM | Chris Polhamus (Administrator)

    For many years – 14 to be exact – Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana has been engaging with leaders in our region. I’ve been fortunate to have been a part of those conversations for the last five years, and each time I am able to share all that YLNI has to offer and how we can be working in partnership with our community, and I walk away with a spark of inspiration and a new piece of knowledge.  

    Last night, eight of our YLNI board members and thirteen community leaders gathered in my office at Barnes & Thornburg with one purpose in mind - to discuss how YLNI can best serve the organizations in our region with their talent attraction, development and retention efforts. That spark I usually leave with, was a full-blown firework!

    Our conversation was dynamic, engaging, connective and exciting! During our round table discussion we defined, as a group, what true leadership means. This is not the “climb over other people just to get to the top” idea of leadership. No, that’s not how any of us in that room define it. Leadership is not being the loudest person in the room; it isn’t being the biggest extrovert on the team; and it certainly is not being a person who exerts influence solely based on a position of power.

    To us, leadership is being so humble that you naturally create an environment where others, regardless of differences, feel included, respected and valued. Humility makes you “teachable.” It helps you acknowledge that you are not perfect and you do not have all the answers. Last night, I watched every person in the room absorb these little nuggets of information from everyone else. Not one person walked in the door thinking he or she had all the answers, and every person left the room with new ideas and information. Leadership is being so vulnerable that the people around you want to follow you because they feel connected to you on a “real” level. Good leaders exert influence because of who they are and their relationship with their team. Vulnerability promotes empathy and humanizes you. It takes courage to be vulnerable and admit you aren’t perfect.

    We began last night at a place of not knowing all of the answers as we talked about the barriers organizations face when it comes to talent attraction and retention. How do we attract quality talent to the area? How do we keep them engaged in work and their community? The ideas were flowing and we have a lengthy list of next steps, which leads me to this; leadership is being accountable to yourself and to your team. Good leaders accept responsibility for outcomes, both good and bad. They inspire trust in their teams because those who work with them know that failure is nothing more than a learning opportunity, and any opportunity to grow is a win. Good leaders also hold their team accountable to put forth their best effort for the greater good of the entire team. Accountability breeds inclusivity.

    Going into last night, I knew that the twenty-one of us there had a common interest, but I did not know that all of us would become a team. The passion for this region, our talent, developing leaders, and making Northeast Indiana a place where people want to be bonds us. We still don’t have all the answers, but what we do have is a team of leaders who exhibit humility, vulnerability, courage, and accountability. My expectations run high - stay tuned for what’s next!

    Thank you to the following community leaders for joining us:

    Marshall White – Unity Performing Arts Center
    Aaryn Eady - Unity Performing Arts Center
    Nelson Peters – Allen County Commissioner
    Ron Dick – Design Collaborative
    Ronald Elsenbaumer – Purdue Fort Wayne
    Ryan Fox – Ash Brokerage
    Jeanne Wickens – Parkview
    Mark Robison – Brotherhood Mutual
    Mike Galbraith – Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership
    Mike Cahill – Ruoff Mortgage
    Bob Vitoux – Ambassador Enterprises
    Julie Inskeep – Journal Gazette
    John Hopkins - - Sweetwater Sound 

    Savannah M. Robinson
    YLNI Board President

    “Successful leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty rather than the difficulty in every opportunity.”- Reed Markham

  • 12 Jul 2018 9:00 AM | Jasmine Bejar

    Seventeen emerging leaders have been named to the Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana Board of Directors for 2018-2019.

    Effective July 1, Savannah Robinson begins a two-year term as president, and Sarah Verpooten serves as vice president.

    The Board of Directors, which meets monthly, is the governing body of YLNI that will guide the organization to fulfill its goals.
    • Savannah Robinson, President
      Barnes & Thornburg LLP
    • Sarah Verpooten, Vice President
      Strahm Building Solutions
    • David Curry, Treasurer
      Lake City Bank
    • A.J. Stites, Secretary
      First Insurance Group
    • Patrick Florea, Director at Large, Executive Committee
      JH Specialty, Inc.
    • Kourtney Teegardin, Vice President, Membership
      Design Collaborative
    • Justin Hayes, Vice President Leadership Development
      Lake City Bank
    • John Hudson, Vice President, Community Impact
      Viridian Architectural Design, Inc. 
    • Jasmine Bejar, Vice President, Communications
      One Lucky Guitar
    • Britny Berndt, Vice President, Social Programming
      Keystone Graphics
    • Chris Reeve, Vice President, Fund Development
      ProFed Federal Credit Union
    • Chris Polhamus, Director at Large, Technology
      JH Specialty, Inc.
    • Tim Zink, Director at Large, Living Fort Wayne 
      Purdue University Fort Wayne
    • Kelly Rentschler, Director at Large, Fund Development
      American Electric Power
    • Rena Burden, Director at Large, Leadership Development 
    • Brandon Noll, Director at Large, Community Impact
      Reusser Design
    • Katie Robinson, Director at Large, Communications
      Fort Wayne Airport

    The board's day-to-day activities include a variety of tasks, such as event planning, securing funding, and serving as advocates for the emerging professional demographic in our region. 

    "I am excited to lead this board of passionate and dedicated emerging leaders who are committed to making Northeast Indiana a better place,” Robinson said. “We're excited to continue to strengthen this organization to positively impact our community.”

    Established in 2005, YLNI is a group of dynamic emerging leaders that aims to engage the community and make a positive impact in Fort Wayne and the surrounding area. The mission of the 2,500-plus person network is to attract, develop, and retain emerging leaders through community, professional and social engagement.

  • 09 Jul 2018 8:00 AM | Jasmine Bejar

    Join YLNI for View from the Top with teds market owner Brian Hench on Wednesday, July 25! YLNI Board Member Rena Burden will moderate.

    The event will take place at teds market from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Pizza and appetizers will be provided. Cost is $10 to attend.

    Get Tickets 

  • 06 Jun 2018 3:44 PM | John Felts

    YLNI is proud to present our premiere annual General Membership Event, where current members, potential members, and established community leaders are invited to come together to celebrate the growth of our community and the accomplishments of our organization in the past year!

    This year's celebration will take place on Thursday, June 21 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at Three Rivers Distillery Company. This event will be the perfect opportunity for you to connect with our various committees, as well as enjoy tasty food from TRDC, Fort Wayne-inspired beverages, fun outdoor games, and live music from Will Certain. Admission is free, but register below to attend. 

    Register here 

  • 06 Jun 2018 3:41 PM | John Felts

    YLNI is excited to compete in the 4th annual Fort Wayne Dragon Boat Races on Saturday, June 23! We invite you to join our team and help us paddle our way to victory.

    Each team member is asked to raise and donate a minimum of $50 in pledges, which goes towards the team entry. If you are interested in participating, please email Mike Weber at

  • 23 May 2018 3:31 PM | John Felts

    Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI) is excited to announce the inaugural High School Leadership Institute program. The program will take place over two weeks in June, with 21 participants learning about various topics from community leaders.

    Local high school students will explore topics on temperaments and interaction styles, interpersonal communications, networking opportunities, and financial strength and basic budgeting. They’ll also explore the city, taking a tour of the Allen County Courthouse, meeting Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, touring the beautiful Embassy Theatre and the award winning Parkview Field, and getting a hands-on experience at the U.S. Paralympic Training site at Turnstone Center for Children & Adults with Disabilities.

    The students participating in the program are:

    • Steve Alvarez – South Side High School
    • Janae Andrews – Snider High School
    • LaKayla Armour – Snider High School
    • DeMisha Billingsley – East Allen University
    • Carter Bonecutter – Leo Jr./Sr. High School
    • Luke Casterline – New Haven High School
    • Austin Caudill – New Haven High School
    • Berenice Cruz – South Side High School
    • Claryce Dager – Homestead High School
    • Jurneé-Len Davis – Snider High School
    • Emily Farler – Woodlan Jr./Sr. High School
    • Jesus Gonzalez – East Allen University
    • Rachel Kitzmiller – New Haven High School
    • Shelby Kruckeberg – East Allen Choice Alternative School
    • Jaydiin Moye – East Allen Choice Alternative School
    • Victoria Rader – North Side High School
    • Austin Richards – Homestead High School
    • Martavius Sherrill Jr. – Snider High School
    • Luke Spangler – Woodlan Jr./Sr. High School
    • Sierra Svozzi – Homestead High School
    • Zachary Trocchio – Snider High School

    The new program is organized by a group of seven YLNI volunteers, led by committee Chair Stephanie Taylor.

    “High School Leadership Institute is a way for youth to advance themselves in our community through learning and networking with their peers,” Taylor said. “Getting them in a room with these community professionals would not be possible, but for this program. The exposure they’ll gain to each other, community leaders, and to physical spaces they might not have accessed before is what I am most excited about for the participants.”

    The YLNI High School Leadership Institute is made possible thanks to the following sponsors: Strahm Building Solutions, Design Collaborative, Turnstone Center for Children & Adults with Disabilities, Arts United, Hoppy Gnome, Indiana Michigan Power, and Foellinger Foundation. 

    For more information on the program, visit 

  • 21 May 2018 9:00 AM | Jasmine Bejar

    We've been chatting with some of our members, finding out why they love being an active member of our YLNI community. 

    Get to know Tiana Maclin, Marketing Specialist at Regal Beloit.

    What is your involvement with YLNI, and how long have you been involved? 

    My involvement in YLNI is the strategic marketing manager on the Living Fort Wayne committee, a leading destination for everything great about living, working and playing in our community. I also enjoy going to Hot Spots and other events when I can. 

    Why did you decide to join YLNI?

    I decided to join YLNI after learning about the group from the Greater Fort Wayne, Inc. fellows program. I was excited to learn about a group devoted to growing and inspiring the young professional community in Northeast Indiana. 

    What do you hope to accomplish as a member of YLNI?

    YLNI has a diverse group of young professionals wanting to make where they live, work and play the best it can become. I am also one of those. I also want to grow my network around me and learn more about the young individuals that make Fort Wayne so great. 

    What makes you most proud to be a young leader in Northeast Indiana? 

    I am most proud of the opportunities and ability to grow. I moved to Fort Wayne shortly after graduating from college. Having the chance to jump in and be a part of the group in a position in which I can truly contribute was a breath of fresh air. 

    If you were showing someone around Northeast Indiana who had never been before, where is the first place you would take them?

    I love the museums and would take them there in a heartbeat. Wunderkammer or the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. Also, the food! Club Soda, Pint and Slice or the Dash-In are some of my favorite downtown picks. 

    Everyone has a reason for being a part of this community of leaders. Why are you YLNI?


    Written by Jasmine Bejar, YLNI Communications Committee Member
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