Cultivating the next generation of leaders through strategic engagement and development opportunities.
The Emerging Leaders Cabinet is a committee of our Board of Directors comprised specifically of people under the age of 40 from throughout our southwest Minnesota region. All come from different walks of life, and represent the diversity of our great region.
The role of the committee is to explore current realities and trends and to create avenues of influence for this group of leaders.
The ELC was launched in February 2017 and is led by Past Board Chair Bob Thurston and Community Engagement Officer Pablo Obregón.
Members of our Emerging Leaders Cabinet directed $26,000 in grants from the foundation to communities across southwest Minnesota in 2018. Read more.
Mortgage Banker, First State Bank Southwest
Growing up observing his father’s work in the family business in Chandler, MN, Jordan knew that, in some fashion, his future lay in the business world. After graduating with a degree in Business from Dordt College, Jordan accepted a position with First State Bank Southwest, first as an agricultural loan officer for the Pipestone area, and now as the Worthington market area mortgage lender. He has a special interest in housing issues and can share knowledge with the Cabinet regarding the various southwest MN communities in which he has lived and worked. Jordan wishes to serve on the Emerging Leaders Cabinet with the aim of growing both personally and professionally. “I also understand the valuable work that SWIF does in the southwest MN area … and I want to do my part to see this Cabinet grow and be successful.”
Paraprofessional, Willmar Public Schools
Fardowsa immigrated to the United States from Somalia in 2013. Prior to leaving her home country, she was involved with the Boys & Girls Club for 5 years. She is now founder and CEO of the Somali Youth Organization in Willmar. Fardowsa says she looks forward to building her leadership and communication skills through the Emerging Leaders Cabinet. She is also eager to learn from other communities.
Economic Development Coordinator, Renville County
After growing up in Willmar, Susie graduated from Eagan High School and the School of Environmental Studies at the Minnesota Zoo. She earned a Marketing and Business Degree from Southwest Minnesota State University. Over the past eight years she has worked for the Renville County Housing and Economic Development Authority, first as the Development Assistant and now as the Economic Development Coordinator. Susie is currently training with the International Economic Development Council to become a Certified Economic Developer. She has served with numerous community organizations and, with her family, is involved with the Army National Guard. “I have a passion for southwest Minnesota and I want to see its communities and residents flourish. As Gandhi said ‘Be the change you want to see in the World’ and I want to be part of that change in my communities.” Susie lives in Olivia with her husband Andrew and two sons Elliot and Jonas.
Bank President, CenBank
When the opportunity to make a difference in your community comes along, Don thinks you need to take it. “The Emerging Leaders Cabinet is just that kind of opportunity,” Don said. “We are working to shrink the opportunity gap that exists across our region by finding specific areas where we can make a difference. Step by step we are doing our part to improve our small part of the world.”
Don's community involvement includes the Hutchinson Leadership Institute Design Team, Hutchinson Fastpitch Association, Temple Lodge #59 Masons, TigerPath Academies Steering Committee, Relay for Life, Hutchinson Ambassadors and Hutchinson Utilities Commission.
Three things you should know about Don: His family means more to him than anything; once summer comes, you can find him at the ballpark; the golf course would be the second place to look.
Watershed Project Manager, Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District
Jonathan’s father emigrated from Mexico after meeting his mother in Puerto Vallarta. Having grown up immersed in two very different cultures, he appreciates diversity and seeks it out. Through high school and college, Jonathan’s desire grew to connect with people to help the environment, which he has been able to do through his work with organizations such as The Center for Sustainable Community Development, Yellowstone National Park, Prairie Woods ELC, Youth Energy Summit, and now in his position with the Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District. Jonathan says, “I would like to engage our communities in ways that excite them and motivate them to do good. Another draw for me is the fact that this is in its early stages and we, as the first cabinet, will have the responsibility and opportunitiy to shape this for future emerging leaders.”
Graphic Designer, Vivid Image
Any chance to get out and do good in the world appeals to Karlie. She joined the Emerging Leaders Cabinet to experience more of southwest Minnesota and learn about the area while giving back. “Being on the Emerging Leaders Cabinet is a way for me to make a difference and seek change to benefit others,” says Karlie.
Karlie moved to Hutchinson seven years ago and has been steadily becoming more involved in the community. She is on the Hutchinson Leadership Institute Design Team and enjoys volunteering at various community events throughout the year.
Three things you should know about Karlie: Giving back to her community is very important to her, one of the most important values in her life is inspiring others to take care of themselves and do good things in their lives, and laughing and having fun in whatever she does is incredibly important.
Ayan came to the United States in 2006, without her parents, at the age of 14. “I kind of raised myself,” she says. Although Ayan has not held many leadership roles yet, she says, “I want to be a strong leader and learn others’ cultural stories and share mine with them too.”
Director of Client Services, The Link
Chasity is Director of Client Services at The Link, an interfaith community outreach organization that connects people to the human, organizational, and financial resources they need. “My goal is to treat others with respect and meet them where they are. I have personal experience with financial instability, mental health issues, and chemical abuse, and sharing these experiences with others breaks down fears and strengthens trust.” Chasity is passionate about making positive change in her own community and beyond and is excited for the opportunity to serve and grow as a leader on the Emerging Leaders Cabinet.
Owner, Singvongsa Landscaping
Chantavy is interested in growing as an individual, learning new things and giving back to his community, which is why he joined the Emerging Leaders Cabinet. A self-made entrepreneur, Chant owns Singvongsa Landscaping, iMobile Solutions, Singvongsa Photography and Chant’s Daily Hustle. Experience has been his teacher—Chant says everything he’s learned about leadership and being a business owner has come from his own successes and failures.
“I’ve started many businesses and failed at many too. Failure can be your biggest teacher,” said Chant, who struggled to find himself growing up, and at one point turned to drugs and alcohol. He overcame those addictions and has since found family and work to be his motivators.
Three things you should know about Chant: He loves camping with family, he’s a father to two boys and, of course, he’s an entrepreneur.
Seed Corn Broker, Thurston, Inc.
Rob has a passion for learning and was excited to be part of the inaugural group of Emerging Leaders Cabinet members, engaging with other community leaders throughout southwest Minnesota.
Rob was born and raised in the Corn Capital of the USA — Olivia, Minn. He is very involved in this community where he still lives, now with his wife, Abby, and their two daughters. He’s a board member of the BIO Legacy Foundation and serves on the parish council at St. Aloysius Catholic Church as well as being involved with the Olivia Chamber of Commerce.
Three things you should know about Rob: He drives race cars, marketing is his life and he’s an entrepreneur. In addition to his work at Thurston, In., he owns Rocket Marketing, which specializes in signs, banners and decals.
Owner, Fiesta Time Rentals
Giving back for Robert means sharing his time and life experiences as a newcomer to Minnesota with others like him. Robert was born in Texas, moved to rural Minnesota in 1995, and earned his business administration degree with a minor in Economics. As the former director of the Willmar Area Multicultural Business Center, Robert tackled the challenges of poverty and creating opportunity through economic development.
Regarding his service on the Emerging Leaders Cabinet, Robert says, “I feel I am uniquely well positioned to understand the challenges and assets affecting Latinos in our state today. My vision is for us to unite around common issues and work collaboratively to advance the common good of all Minnesotans through intentional actions.”
Three things you should know about Robert: He’s driven, God is at the center, and he believes we should slow down and enjoy life.
University of Minnesota Extension, Nobles County
Jessica chose to be a member of the Emerging Leaders Cabinet to serve as a voice for the youth she works for … at least until they can take her place. “Please remember what it was like when you were a kid, and how you act when around your friends now. Don’t expect something from a young human that we can’t do,” said Jessica, who is a mom in addition to working with youth as STEM coordinator for the University of Minnesota Extension 4-H program in Nobles County.
In Worthington, Jessica is part of the grassroots Immigrant Task Force, Worthington FC soccer club and Seeds of Justice.
Three things you should know about Jessica: She was made small but packed with a lot of energy, she is very open about talking about discrimination and prejudice and she talks to youth about being changemakers every opportunity she gets.
Walnut Grove, MN
Community Engagement and Education Coordinator, United Way of Southwest Minnesota
Sarah loves living in southwest Minnesota, and she serves on the Emerging Leaders Cabinet to make a positive impact in the region she calls home. Sarah grew up in Walnut Grove and chose to stay and raise her children there as well. She believes small communities are full of opportunities for those who wish to find and nurture them.
Sarah’s leadership roles thus far have taught her the importance of relationship building, and she says, “a successful leader should do more listening than talking.” Her current community involvement includes serving as board secretary for the Walnut Grove Area Foundation.
Three things you should know about Sarah: Her faith is at the center of her life, her family and friends mean the world to her and she tries to do whatever she can to help others.