Empowering Leaders

Building the Framework for a Brighter Tomorrow

Convening community organizers, civic leaders and local philanthropists, we helped the Leaders of Tomorrow Program grow from an innovative idea to a sought-after model for leadership development and community engagement.

We love this community. We love it from the hustle of downtown to the hum of uptown to the endless sky and gently rolling prairie just outside the city limit signs. We love it for its limitless opportunity, for its reverence of the past, and for its optimism of the future.

Because we love this community, we believe we have a responsibility to sustain what’s good here and to champion movements and ideas that seek to make this special place even better. We envision a future where people and families feel safe, have equal access to the resources they need for their health and well-being, have opportunities to inspire and be inspired through the arts, and are encouraged to drive bold change through leadership and service.

Those aren’t lofty goals. At the surface, they may even seem common-place. Unexceptional. Easy.

Sadly, they’re anything but.

That’s because we live in a complex world with complex challenges, too few solutions, and not enough doorways to possibility.

So how do we chart a path forward? We believe it starts with leadership.

To navigate the challenges of today, and tomorrow, we believe our community needs more leaders. We’re not talking about more managers or CEOs. We’re talking about inspired and empowered individuals who represent the growing number of colors, languages, cultures, beliefs and backgrounds that exist in our community today; individuals who can come together, share perspective, build dialogue and assemble the framework Sioux Falls needs for a brighter tomorrow.

That’s why we are proud to support a program called Leaders of Tomorrow, a forward-thinking initiative designed to help inspire, shape and nurture emerging leaders by teaching intrinsic skills such as effective communication and problem solving techniques, while focusing on broader concepts such as self-awareness, self-motivation and the power of influence.

Leaders of Tomorrow Program graduates
Leaders of Tomorrow Program graduates Eric Roberts (front, center) and (back row, left to right) Iman Omar, Ragina Ajack, Sadie Swier, Kim Munoz and Kayla Huizing outside the Community Foundation’s office. Photo by Emily Spartz Weerheim.

“We are lucky to work at the intersection where philanthropy gives way to positive change,” said Patrick Gale, vice president for community investment. “Our job is to connect the dots, open doors for dialogue and inspire strategic investments to improve the quality of life for everyone who calls this community home.”

“We believe the Leaders of Tomorrow Program has the power and potential to help inspire and empower more individuals in our community to step forward and join the movement to create positive change. As we reflect on the year 2020, from the pain and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, to the divisions caused by racial injustice, we know there’s never been a more important time to invest in building engaged and impassioned leaders who can make our community even stronger,” he said.

Looking Ahead

The Leaders of Tomorrow Program was co-founded by local business owners Vaney Hariri and Tamien Dysart in 2018 to help bridge a gap they saw widening throughout Sioux Falls.

Through their consultancy firm, Think 3D, the two had been working with businesses to help enhance corporate cultures through self-discovery exercises, executive coaching and development training.

What they saw was eye-opening.

“We understood that in a very short time, boomers will be leaving the workforce and millennials will be taking over. Gen Z is coming on strong. We could see the diversity in our elementary schools and what is now prevalent in our high schools. We saw all the trends and we just knew this community needed more individuals with leadership skills,” Hariri said.

Dysart added: “We knew that our highest aspiration of what our city can become, in terms of its potential, would not come about if we didn’t bridge this gap in building leaders to help lead us forward.”

And so, the idea for Leaders of Tomorrow was born.

Leaders of Tomorrow Program co-founders Tamien Dysart (left) and Vaney Hariri. Photo by Emily Spartz Weerheim.
Leaders of Tomorrow Program co-founders Tamien Dysart (left) and Vaney Hariri. Photo by Emily Spartz Weerheim.

Champions for Positive Change

In 2018, Hariri and Dysart were working to get the Leaders of Tomorrow Program off the ground when they met Andy Patterson, president of the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, at an event. They invited him to attend and observe a class they were teaching to one of their first small cohorts.

Patterson took them up on the offer. He stood in the back of the room, listening and learning. The dialogue was intense; the emotions were palpable. Patterson could see the impact the classes had on participants and could envision the impact graduates of the program could have on the community.

Tamien Dysart leads a Leaders of Tomorrow class last fall.
Tamien Dysart leads a Leaders of Tomorrow class last fall.

Believing in the power of the program, the Foundation provided fuel to help the idea rev and accelerate, providing support for Leaders of Tomorrow through several rounds of grant funding while also working to connect interested donors with the program’s leaders to provide additional philanthropic support.

It’s an example of how the Foundation works to help good ideas, movements and aspiring nonprofits who exhibit the promise and potential to create meaningful social impact.

“The Leaders of Tomorrow Program fills a growing need in our community, offers unlimited future potential and is already driving positive change. We’re proud to offer our support and we’re excited to see the ways this important endeavor will continue to impact and shape our community going forward.” Patterson said.

Dysart said support from the Foundation has been critical to the success of the program.

“The Community Foundation knows and understands what we’re doing and is able to share it with others who are passionate about the same things,” Dysart said. “I think people want to know that when they give to something, their gift is going to make an impact. At that point, it becomes something far more than a charitable gift or donation. It becomes an investment.”

The Foundation’s awareness, and its ability to convene conversations and ideas, make it an asset to the community, Dysart said.

“Most communities are made of really good people who intend well, but don’t have the connectivity. There’s no shortage of organizations or causes for us to give our money to, so if you don’t have an organization like the Community Foundation — an organization that has connectivity to the things that are really happening — the needs, the challenges, the opportunities out there — where do people turn? Having an organization who keeps its eyes and ears open to the needs in the community, and can help guide and direct where charitable dollars can have the most impact, that's huge."

Tamien Dysart, co-founder, Leaders of Tomorrow

Today, more than 100 rising leaders have completed the Leaders of Tomorrow Program, a 12-week course designed to “develop better humans, in terms of leadership,” Hariri said. Cohorts of approximately 25 participants meet each week to work through a curriculum developed by Hariri and Dysart.

Thanks to the grant support from the Community Foundation, as well as local businesses who have partnered in the program, Leaders of Tomorrow is free for participants. Participants can be nominated or can apply themselves.

Reflecting the Community Today

When filling each Leaders of Tomorrow cohort, Hariri and Dysart are intentional about making sure the diversity of Sioux Falls is represented.

“We want that nice mix of Hispanic and Muslim and Ethiopian and all the different ethnicities, cultures, religions we have here in Sioux Falls,” Dysart said. “But the challenge is, you have to be connected to those communities within our community to find and encourage rising leaders to participate in the program.”

It’s a challenge that’s becoming easier thanks to the growing number of individuals who are participating in the Leaders of Tomorrow Program — the majority of whom refer or nominate people within their social and professional circles to participate in future classes.

“Now that we’re starting to get momentum, we’re starting to create a pool of talent,” Dysart said. “So when city leaders or business leaders want to include diverse members of our community on boards or in other opportunities, they have a place from which to draw talent.”

Hariri agreed.

“Our goal is to be able to say, ‘Hey, Leaders of Tomorrow graduates, there’s a board position open. Who wants to engage in this?’ And immediately, we can have a group of locked-in leaders, all of whom have some level of leadership training, be able to look at that. Our goal is to have 500 new, trained and engaged leaders by 2025. That would be huge for our community,” Hariri said.

Looking ahead, Hariri and Dysart envision that Leaders of Tomorrow will become a self-sustaining program, led and taught by past graduates whose passion for leadership and service will also inspire new generations of participants and community partners.

Eric Roberts said participating in the Leaders of Tomorrow Program inspired him to take a more active role in serving the community he calls home. Photo by Emily Spartz Weerheim.

Communication, Confidence and Courage

Eric Roberts is a graduate of one of the first Leaders of Tomorrow classes. He called the experience life-changing.

“I’d never been part of something like this before,” he said. “The program taught me to ‘lead up.’ I also learned how to make my communication more effective. I developed the courage and strength to affect others. I now have the confidence I need to make a difference.”

Roberts, 31, works as a claims adjuster for Progressive Insurance. He said the Leaders of Tomorrow Program inspired him to take a more active role in the community.

Today, he serves on a grants committee for a field of interest fund at the Foundation that supports organizations and ideas committed to lifting up disadvantaged individuals, families and children in the Sioux Falls area.

“I’ve had a chance to learn a lot about the nonprofits in Sioux Falls,” he said. “It’s exciting to know I get to be a small part of helping support charities in our community.”

Roberts also chairs the advisory committee for the Bridging the Gap Fund, a fund held at the Community Foundation designed to help inspire, build and develop emerging leaders among the city’s diverse populations through education, community building, story-telling and leadership development.

Hariri said Roberts is an example of how investing in emerging leaders can benefit a community.

“When people finish the program, we want them to have the confidence that, number one, they can lead themselves first. Then, through influence, they’ll have the ability to lead others in every category. No matter where they’re at in the business structure or where they’re at in the world,” he said.

JJ Johnson, a graduate of the Leaders of Tomorrow program
Local business owner JJ Johnson.
Del’Inkka Beaudion
Local business owner Del’Inkka Beaudion.

JJ Johnson owns Blackcard Inc., a local media agency. She is a 2019 Leaders of Tomorrow graduate.

As a business owner, Johnson said participating in the Leaders of Tomorrow Program “enabled me to better connect with my employees on a deeper level.”

“Leaders of Tomorrow has helped me grow not only professionally, but personally, too,” Johnson said. “I’m a single mother of three kids so I’ve learned to better manage my schedule, which in turn, makes our entire home environment better. Through this program, I’ve learned to stop, listen and understand and make the best decision. Overall, I just feel more confident.”

Del’Inkka Beaudion is the owner of Swamp Daddy’s Cajun Kitchen in downtown Sioux Falls. She heard about the Leaders of the Tomorrow Program from a past participant and was excited for her chance to join the program last year.

“As a small business owner, I believe I have the power to influence my employees — not only to do good work for me, but to inspire them to further their own dreams and aspirations,” Beaudion said. “I think it’s important to elevate my community. We all want to make positive impacts within ourselves, our community, our friends and family. In order for our city to grow and develop and to be great, we have to do that.”


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