On Tuesday, December 2, 2020, members of SDARL Class X officially graduated and joined the alumni cohort of the premier leadership program in South Dakota, bringing the total number of graduates to 300.

The SDARL graduation ceremony is typically a late-spring gathering and celebration with class members, their families, and other members of the SDARL community. Graduation signifies completion of the 18-month program, including state, national, and international study seminars. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Class X’s ceremony was held via the Zoom videoconferencing platform with 26 of 28 class members attending, as well as Board President Todd Mortenson, numerous board members, and SDARL staff Don Norton, Lori Cope, and Jennifer Henrie.

Mortenson led the event with remarks to the class about the opportunity to demonstrate their newfound knowledge and confidence as leaders. CEO Don Norton also congratulated the class, enumerated their SDARL “firsts,” and encouraged all to remain involved with leadership pursuits. “There are almost 2,000 leadership opportunities waiting for you – on hospital boards, school boards, commodity boards, conservation boards… so many opportunities to use your gifts and training to make a positive impact in our state for years to come,” he stated.

Executive Director Lori Cope gave a thought-provoking presentation based on the tale of the Fox and the Hedgehog, sharing a developmental model based on each individual’s philosophy, culture, and character. Encouraging the class to find the point where these ideas intersect, she stated, “Discipline set in motion assures your values are being reflected in your lives. The journey towards the good life begins when your personal philosophies change in a way that postures you for success.”

Next to speak was Heather Niederwerder, Class X President, with a recap of each seminar and a fascinating slideshow of memorable moments from the class’s time together. Heather stated that she had abandoned her prepared remarks and instead offered a heartfelt description of Class X’s bonds as that of family, a sentiment that was echoed by many.

Other attendees then shared their thoughts, with several class members thanking Lori for her friendship, support, and guidance throughout the leadership journey. Board members offered congratulations to the class and encouraged them to utilize their leadership skills and the SDARL network for the good of self, community, state, and nation.

A toast was proposed in celebration of Class X, as the newest SDARL graduates proudly held up their diplomas. The congratulatory moment was captured in screenshot photos of the first SDARL virtual graduation.

Congratulations again to SDARL Class Xcellence for your outstanding achievement!


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