Detroit Lakes' Cole and Kelsey Helbling will represent Becker County in the 2021 Red River Valley Emerging Leadership Program. This dedicated couple stepped up to learn and develop leadership skills in a new way, as the program transitioned to an online and hybrid model of learning during the pandemic.

Cole is a pharmacy operations senior manager at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s in Detroit Lakes, while Kelsey is an administrative assistant for Rossman Elementary School, also in Detroit Lakes.

The Helblings, along with other rural leaders from 14 counties in the region, committed to learning via virtual spaces and embraced variations on a hybrid format. Together they gained insight on personal leadership styles, communication, rural issues, life balance, and facilitating effective meetings. They took a virtual trip to the Minnesota State Capitol which included an online visit with their state legislators about issues affecting their communities.

The theme for the Class of 2021, “Discovering the Power of YET”, has been just what everyone needed this year — a reminder to focus on what is possible, to view challenges as opportunities, to be creative and take risks, and for each person to own their attitude. Jody Horntvedt, Extension Educator with the RRVELP program, said, “The concept of YET has been evident in the many ways that participants embraced learning amidst the challenges in their lives and have been present and committed to taking part in program sessions.”

University of Minnesota Extension coordinates the Emerging Leadership Program and provides educational content. Local partners include Northwest Minnesota Foundation, Red River Valley Development Association, and many donors from a variety of other sources across the region including ag producer groups, electric cooperatives, community businesses, financial institutions, and individuals in counties throughout northwest and west central Minnesota who contribute each year.

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The Helblings and other RRVELP participants will be honored for their commitment to leadership and their community during an online recognition event set for this coming Tuesday, April 6. The event will be broadcast on Facebook LIVE at 7 p.m., and the public is invited to view the ceremony on the RRV Emerging Leadership Program Facebook page.