Fifteen strangers from different walks of life meet together in a room. A business owner. An aspiring entrepreneur. A recent graduate. A mid-level manager. Each have different skill sets, backgrounds and talents. However, they’ve come together to identify and solve problems in Northern Utah communities. In this case, intergenerational poverty.

This is the scene every year at Leadership Northern Utah Academy (LNU), a leadership program dedicated to improving the community. It is a yearlong program, running from September to June. While many participants have some background in business, any community-minded person is invited to join.

In addition to improving the community, LNU seeks to educate and improve students by teaching leadership principles and problem solving, providing instruction on professional growth and recognition, establishing professional relationships, and teaching about the Northern Utah community at large.

“It’s a great program because you learn about the skills, but then you get to see those skills in action,” Rachel Child said, previous chair of LNU. Child has been a part of LNU in different capacities for years and has seen the positive change it can bring.

For instance LNU’s most recent program, the Intergenerational Poverty Initiative (IPI). The IPI provides employment and other resources to families with a long-term dependence on public assistance. According to LNU’s website, Weber County alone has 7,500 children who fall under this category.

As part of the IPI, Child and LNU’s 2017-2018 class worked with partners to link graduates with potential employers. Doing so was a boon to both parties: employers found a previously untapped source of dedicated workers, while participants were able to find work and make a livable wage.

Additionally, the program would assist with whatever help the individual needed—everything from interviewing tips to resume writing to coaching on professional wardrobes (in some cases even providing clothing). Upon a hire, LNU would also step in to help if the individual had any issues at work.

Contrary to other LNU projects, which are typically completed within a year, the IPI was designed to be a sustainable, long term endeavor. After getting the program up and running through a successful pilot year, LNU has turned oversight over to a partner.

All of this while providing hands-on training to the rising stars of the business community.

“You get to see behavior in action,” Child added. “The skills, leadership principles, and everything else—you get to see how they function in a work environment.”

When asked about the best part of the LNU program, Child thought for a moment.

“The relationships you develop. You don’t realize how strong they are until it’s over. You’re with the same people for 10 months, and when it’s over you miss them a lot and realize how much you’ve come to rely on those people.”

The IPI is just one example of a successful project LNU has seen to completion. Previously, the group worked with Ogden’s Women’s Retreat House where they helped develop training sources and assisted in renovating the building. Ultimately, they provided approximately $50,000 in resources.

With the advent of the new 2018-2019 class, starting this month, LNU now has its sights set on the next project. According to Child, this will likely focus on three smaller projects and will be determined after on-site visits and collaboration within the group.

And if the past is any indicator, these projects will be a win for both the participants and the community.