Haverhill LEADS Fellows Among Inaugural Graduates; Vargas Calls Program Transformational

Seventy “Leaders Engaged and Activated to Drive System-wide change,” otherwise known as LEADS fellows, celebrated graduation at Northern Essex Community College.

Fellows from Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill LEADS participated in the executive leadership program in partnership with Harvard Business School faculty. State Rep. Andy X. Vargas, one of three class speakers, gave concluding remarks before the more than 100 regional leaders who gathered.

“This opportunity has been transformational for me personally, while also creating opportunities for making lasting and deep change in my community and across the region. These are the people and relationships that will move our communities and our region forward,” Vargas said.

In addition to a graduation ceremony, the event featured presentations from nine project teams organized around the themes of food security, affordable/fair housing, youth mentoring, racial equity and small business supports. As a result of the pitches, approximately $50,000 of funding was committed by philanthropists and foundations to launch projects to address these community and regional priorities, organizers said in a statement.

Besides Vargas, other Haverhill cohorts included Emmaus Director of Philanthropy Gretchen Arntz, MakeIT Haverhill Co-Founder Keith Boucher, Sen. Diana DiZoglio, Pentucket Bank President Jonathan Dowst, Power of Self-Education Co-Founders Katrina and Dennis D. Everett Jr., Penelope Guerrero Design Founder and Creative Director Penelope Guerrero Perez, Haverhill mayoral Chief of Staff Allison Heartquist, Fidelity House CRC President and CEO Brad Howell, Fishbrook Design Founder Matthew E. Juros, Haverhill school Superintendent Margaret Marotta, Matias Realty Managing Partner Manuel Matias, Northern Essex Community College CFO and CEO Michael R. McCarthy, Capri Realty and Management’s Stephen Pascoe, Community Action CEO Kerri Perry, Haverhill Stem Owner and CEO Caroline Pineau, Haverhill High School Student Support and Community Liaison Andres Polanco, Great Neighborhoods Network Director Anabelle Rondon, Leaving the Streets Ministry Chaplain Jesus Ruiz, Holy Family Hospital COO and Vice President of Operations Bridgett Stewart, Crystal Engineering CEO Michael Trotta, Trinity Episcopal Church Priest-in-Charge Sarah Van Gulden and UTEC Workforce Development Director Will F. Vilas Novas.

LEADS was co-founded in 2018 by Jeff Bussgang, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and general partner of Boston-based venture capital firm Flybridge, and Harvard Business School executive education director Pam Hallagan, in collaboration with the Lawrence Partnership. The initiative grew to serve Lowell and Haverhill and is scheduled to grow to another region in 2022.