Empower Leadership Pods & Blogs2021-05-04T08:35:59-04:00

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There are many different definitions of leadership and theories on what great leadership looks, sounds, and feels like. The Lead with Empower Podcast connects listeners with those who are “in the trenches” leading themselves and others each day in schools, on the field, in their offices, and in their communities. We will learn about their unique leadership style and identify common traits between tremendous leaders through our guests’ personal stories and insight – inspiring our listeners to unleash their leadership potential at home, school, work, or on the field, and in their community.

Featured Episode

Mayor Eric Seidel – City of Oldsmar, FL
Leads with Empower
“Have a plan, communicate regularly, and be aggressive to tackle the problem.”

Scroll down for show notes and past episodes

Season III of the Lead with Empower Podcast

Episode #15: Season III

Eric Seidel

Mayor of the City of Oldsmar, FL

Leads with Empower

“People are only motivated out of two areas – either desire or fear. The problem with motivating people out of fear is that the moment you leave the room, so does the motivation. If you motivate people out of desire, they will go to town.”

The City of Oldsmar, FL

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

Eric Seidel – Mayor of the City of Oldsmar, FL – was kind enough to join us for a great conversation about community development, leadership, volunteerism, and so much more! Tune in for a great blend of valuable leadership insight, story telling, and engaging humor – enjoy Mayor Eric Seidel Leads with Empower!

00:00: Episode Introduction and Guest “Roll Call”
  • Introducing City of Oldsmar, FL Mayor, Eric Seidel
  • Mayor Seidel introduces listeners to the City of Oldsmar, its wonderful parks system, and their “downtown development” initiatives
11:05: Lead, Inspire, and Empower – “Have a plan, communicate regularly, and be aggressive in tackling the problem”
  • Mayor Seidel shares great insight into leading during the pandemic; discussing the initial state of emergency, Oldsmar’s 3-phase plan of action (Prevention & Essentials, Sustainability, and Recovery), and the current state of recovery in Oldsmar
  • “The smartest person in the room is the one that knows they’re not the smartest person in the room”
28:55: From Miami (Dolphins) to Tampa Bay (Buccaneers) – Mayor Seidel’s Leadership Journey
  • Mayor Seidel shares stories about his upbringing in Miami, his high school experiences (“not a very good student”), and early career in iron work and construction
  • We learn about Mayor Seidel’s transition to a sales job and a key takeaway from his sales manager, Joe Young – “if you’re going to do this job well, you have to become involved in community service”
  • Mayor Seidel also discusses his involvement in the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), entrepreneurship, and his transition to civil service
  • “I’ve been in Civil Service, on-and-off, since 2007. To me, it is community service – I don’t have any big political ambitions, I love the idea of making an impact!”
38:45: “Finish the Drill” and Episode Closure
  • We wrap up the episode our traditional “rapid fire, rapid response” closure; including: (1) Mayor Seidel’s leadership style, strengths, and challenges, (2) his favorite out-of-work adventure, (3) childhood idol/role model, (4) the “Coffee with the Mayor” initiative, and (5) advice for those seeking involvement in civil service

Episode #14: Season III

Joe Borelli, Dean of School Culture – Hamden Charter School of Science,

Leads with Empower

“The only place you see success before work is in the dictionary.”
Joe Borelli – Dean of School Culture at the Hamden Charter School of Science – Leads with Empower. In addition to his work as Dean of Culture, Joe is a CrossFit athlete and trainer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, and entrepreneur. Joe Borelli believes we all have the opportunity to have a tremendous impact on others and he wastes no time doing his best to do so! Enjoy Joe Borelli Leads with Empower.

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

“Whatever goes down has to come back up!”
00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • Joe and I discuss the challenges of the pandemic, specifically when considering his work with young adults. “Human beings are social in nature and we all need to find ways to pick each other up.”
  • Joe Borelli as a leader – “is someone who always strives to do his best and help people get closer to becoming their best self.”
“The only place you see success before work is in the dictionary”
27:15: The Journey is Where the Magic Happens
  • We learn about Joe’s journey to becoming an educator, trainer/coach, and entrepreneur and discuss the people and experiences that have impacted him along the way.
  • “The acorn has a miniature Oak Tree in it. The Oak Tree grows and, when it does, it gives acorns out. Leadership is all about giving back.”
48:45: “Finish the Drill” and Episode Closure
  • We close the episode with a handful of “rapid fire, rapid response” questions – including (1) Joe’s childhood role model, (2) what inspires/drives him today, (3) how Joe defines himself as a leader, (4) Joe’s favorite Avenger, and (5) what inspires Joe about the people he works with!

Episode #13: Season III

Carl Johnson, Principal of Plainville High School,

Leads with Empower

“The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime” – Free Four, Pink Floyd
Carl Johnson, the Principal of Plainville HS (Plainville, CT), Leads with Empower! Carl is a lifelong educator who joined us during the school’s April Vacation to share his journey from young history enthusiast to educator and principal, and to discuss the role leadership plays in the Plainville HS operation and in his life. A wonderful conversation with an even better human being!

Follow Plainville HS on Facebook and Twitter

Follow Principal Carl Johnson on Twitter

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

“Trying to look for positive disruptions”
00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • Carl, currently the Plainville HS Principal, is originally from W. Hartford, CT and a graduate from the University of Connecticut. Carl has 5 years of experience in school administration (2.5 years as Vice Principal and 2.5 years as Principal) and over 15 years of experience in education.
  • We discuss the challenges (plus solutions and lessons) from the end of the 2019-2020 school year and the first half of the 2020-2021 year.
  • Carl shares the importance of effective and transparent communication, compassion, and empathy in leadership during times of uncertainty and challenge
  • What is Carl most proud about – the students, families, teachers, and staff who have made “collective sacrifices for the good of everyone else”
17:32: History Trips with Dad, the Passing of Mom, and the Power of Teachers
  • We learn about Carl’s childhood years, discuss moments that have had significant influence on who he is today as a leader, and learn about how Carl began his journey as an educator
  • “At this moment, you have a choice to make” – Carl reflects on sage advice from his MIddle School Principal after the passing of his mother
  • We learn about how Carl’s childhood trips to Fort McClary (Kittery Point, ME) with his father and how his love for history was cultivated
  • The Power of Carl’s Teachers – “My teachers saw things in me that I didn’t see; encouraged that to come out, and pushed me to be a better person”
31:40: Leadership in Action
  • Carl shares the “big surprise” from his first year as a teacher
  • We learn about Carl’s leadership strengths, leadership challenges, and tactics he’s implemented to continue is leadership development (be reflective and surround yourself with people who are brutally honest!)
  • Carl shares the leadership qualities he looks for in teachers – “As long as you’re doing right by the kids, you’re not going to make a bad decision”
  • We learn about the “Portrait of a Graduate” – the 5 key skills (Communicative, Collaborative, Resilient, Innovative Problem Solvers, and Mindfulness)
56:30: “Finish the Drill” and Episode Closure
  • We close the episode with a handful of “rapid fire, rapid response” questions – including (1) Carl’s Childhood Role Model, (2) Carl’s strength that he hopes to pass along to his children, (3) his hobbies, (4) a song that represents Carl as a leader, and (5) why the PHS students inspire him!

Episode #12: Season III

Lori Stanczyc, the Rocky Hill Youth & Family Services Bureau Youth Coordinator, and her Youth to Youth Coalition, featuring Kylie, Abheri, Matt, Abhinav, Danielle, Parth, and Jasmine,

Lead with Empower

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

“It is really nice to do something that makes someone else smile because that always makes me smile!”
Providing youths with positive and safe opportunities to build trusting relationships, develop important life skills, serve their community, and learn to lead is an important facet of youth development. Young adults thrive when given the opportunity to do so!
This episode of the Lead with Empower Podcast features the Rocky Hill Youth and Family Services Bureau – more specifically, Lori Stanczyc, the Youth Coordinator, and Kylie, Abheri, Matt, Abhinav, Danielle, Jasmine, and Parth – the RHYFSB Youth to Youth Coalition.
During our conversation, we learn about RHYFSB and the Youth to Youth Coalition from discussions with Lori and her student group.
Lori shares the history of the RHYFSB and some of their current initiatives while the students discuss (1) why they joined, (2) some of their favorite activities and initiatives, (3) why other students should join the Y2Y Coalition, and how they hope to impact the community members of Rocky Hill, CT.
An absolutely inspirational listen – we hope you enjoy!!!
Visit the RHYFSB website, and follow the Youth to Youth Coalition on Facebook and Instagram, to learn more about these extraordinary young adults and all things youth development in Rocky Hill!

Episode #11: Season III

Farrand Violette

Teacher, Special Education Case Manager, and Assistant Football Coach

Leads with Empower

“It’s important to understand all the details, be a jack of all trades. Be knowledgeable about the things you are not supposed to be knowledgeable about. Be understanding and caring towards the things that you are not supposed to care for or understand. Be accepting so people can feel open to communicate, to learn, and to express themselves.”

“Life in 15 Minute Increments” – Farrand Violette Leads with Empower! Today’s episode features a great conversation with an old friend from Springfield College Football – Farrand Violette. Farrand is currently serving as a teacher, special education case manager, and assistant football coach in Knoxville, TN. Farrand shares great stories, anecdotes, and advice during our conversation – bringing his unique and engaging perspective on leadership to the Lead with Empower Podcast.

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • Farrand is a Teacher, Special Education Case Manager, Coach, and soon-to-be PhD Candidate in Knoxville, TN by way of Houston, TX, Springfield, MA, and Manchester, CT!
  • Our conversation includes a journey through Farrand’s educational, athletic, and professional career and discussions about the leaders and experiences that have impacted him as a leader and mentor to those that he leads.
  • “Take every day as a blessing, just embrace the opportunity to impact people’s lives and be transformative.”
15:30: Houston, Springfield, Connecticut, and Knoxville – Farrand’s Leadership Journey
  • Farrand discusses his upbringing in athletics, his decision to attend Springfield College, and his career journey while sharing insight into who he has become as a leader; including (1) advice for students who are in the college decision making process and (2) the importance of “failing gloriously”.
  • “You’re not going to get all the answers, you better come up with the answers; you have to figure it out and you have to find a way.”
22:58: Leadership in Action
  • “You have to set a standard for how you’re going to do things and how you are going to communicate.”
  • Farrand discusses how he helps his students and student-athletes become more confident in the face of failure, shares stories about the people and experiences that have shaped him as a leader, and provides insight into how he became a teacher.
  • “If you understand the content, you’re able to communicate well, and you can think quickly on your feet, you can teach.”
52:45: “Finish the Drill” and Episode Closure
  • As always, we wrap up the episode with a “rapid fire” Q & A session with our guest, Mr. Farrand Violette. While “Finishing the Drill”, we learn who Farrand’s favorite athlete was when he was a young child, the best advice Farrand received from his parents, advice he would give to his 18 year old self, advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, and the legacy he hopes to leave on the students and student-athletes he leads.

Episode #10: Season III

Justin Carbonella (Youth Services Coordinator) and Bonnie Daley (Diversion Coordinator), from the City of Middletown Youth Services Bureau,

Lead with Empower

“Every problem has a solution, we don’t let things that don’t matter distract us from the things that do!”

The Middletown Youth Services Bureau Team Leads with Empower! We are joined by Justin Carbonella, Youth Services Coordinator, and Bonnie Daley, Diversion Coordinator, from the City of Middletown Youth Services Bureau. I have had the pleasure of working alongside Bonnie, Justin, and many young adults from the MYSB over the years and can say with the utmost confidence that Bonnie and Justin are both tremendous community leaders and advocates for youths and young adults in the City of Middletown and beyond!
Learn more about the Middletown Youth Services Bureau by visiting their website and following on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • We start the episode with a discussion about the MYSB, its role in the Middletown community, and we learn about the day-to-day leadership responsibilities of both Bonnie and Justin.
  • The MYSB is a multi-tiered agent of change focused on critically-conscious youth development. The MYSB prides itself on advocating for youths and families while providing opportunities for youth-led social change.
  • “There is a misperception that we need to shield young people from complicated and challenging issues, that we need to protect their innocence. That is not true; these are issues that young people care deeply about and are impacted by!”
18:02: Leadership Journey to Middletown Youth Services Bureau
  • Bonnie and Justin share their journey, leadership lessons learned, people who impacted them throughout, and a moment of failure that has had a positive impact on their lives!
  • “Seeing adults willing to take on extra work or create new paths; what that does to someone’s confidence and sense of worth – I think that becomes the thing I try to pay forward.”
24:40: Leadership in Action
  • Justin and Bonnie discuss their roles in activating as many youth/young adult leaders as possible by giving them the skills to bring their leadership to wherever their passions lie.
  • “It is important to have young people see your vulnerabilities and to see that, even as an adult, there are going to be moments that you struggle, but you have people around you who will support you through it all.”
  • Bonnie and Justin also discuss the importance of relationships in youth development and share their advice for those struggling to connect with the youths that they lead.
  • “Relationships are a huge part of leadership, it is a notion that is baked deeply into our theory of change and it is what allows us to help youths and young adults realize what they are capable of.”
76:35: “Finish the Drill” and Episode Closure
  • As always, we wrap up our tremendous conversation with a few “quick hitters” with Bonnie and Justin – including (1) their “silver linings” from 2020, (2) their favorite part of working at MYSB, and (3) the leadership quality they hope to pass along to the youths, young adults, and families they serve.
  • “Every problem has a solution, we don’t let things that don’t matter distract us from the things that do!”

Episode #9: Season III

Joe Dumpson

Community Leader and Shift Administrator for the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services

Leads with Empower

Joe Dumpson, Community Leader and Shift Manager for the State of Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, joins the Lead with Empower Podcast! I first met Joe, or as we call him “D”, in the Fall of 2003 at the Mill Pond School. Joe was the in-house room supervisor at the time and quickly became a mentor to me at the Mill Pond School due to his ability to connect with, and lead, the youths we worked with.
Joe shares his incredible story from being a youth/young adult who experienced challenges to becoming an adult who is advocating, leading, and inspiring youths in communities throughout Springfield, MA.
Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot
00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • Joe discusses the leadership challenges brought on by the pandemic; focusing on balancing work, distance learning, and family.
  • Joe also shares the tremendous impact that Ed Tharion has had on him during a formative time in his life.
  • Joe discusses the importance of leading “in the trenches” vs. leading from the safety of “a bubble”.
  • “I’m going to give you as much love as you need, but I’m going to provide the structure that you need as well.”
33:45: From “Latchkey Kid” to Leader
  • Joe shares stories from challenges he faced as a youth/young adult in Springfield and how those challenges shaped who he is today as a leader and as a person.
  • We learn about how experiences at the Mill Pond School helped Joe mature into a community leader who is passionate about helping youths, young adults, and adults overcome and thrive!
  • “To panic during chaos, does not make it better!”
54:54: “Steel Sharpens Steel” – Community Leadership in Action
  • Joe discusses community initiatives that he has led; including the “Walking School Bus” for Springfield youths, Fitness Training for young adults/adults, and his Sunday Afternoon Men’s Group – Steel Sharpens Steel
  • “If you don’t empty the trash can, it will empty itself” – It is important for men to find an outlet so negative emotions/feelings/experiences aren’t buried.
74:15: “Finish the Drill” and Episode Closure
  • We wrap up the episode with some rapid fire/rapid response questions with Joe. We settle the debate of who was the “Chess King” at the Mill Pond School, we hear advice Joe would give to his 15 year old self, Joe shares his definition of leadership, and more!

Episode #8: Season III

Dan Jaskot Leads with Empower

One year ago, the Lead with Empower was just a random thought that flew through the somewhat empty space in my brain! Over the past 12 months, we have recorded 46 episodes with 62 unique guests who are all absolute inspirations when it comes to leading themselves and leading others!
The 47th episode of the Lead with Empower Podcast is a bit different. I step over to the “other side of the microphone” and am interviewed by the one and only Sara Stirling to recap the past year of adventure on the Lead with Empower Podcast.
This episode includes conversations about starting the podcast, “A-Ha” leadership moments experienced during our recordings, memorable conversations, dream guests, and much more!
Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

Episode #7: Season III

Empowered Athletes Overcome Webinar

Featuring Coach Kevin Loney, Coach Laura Duncan, Coach Josh Edmed, Coach Kelly Thompson, and Coach John Klepacki

This episode of the Lead with Empower podcast is an audio recording of our most recent webinar – Empowered Athletes Overcome. The purpose of the webinar was to connect high school athletes, who aspire to compete in college athletics, with our panel of college coaches. Our panel includes:
  • Coach Kevin Loney – Bowdoin College Football
  • Coach Laura Duncan – University of New Haven Women’s Soccer
  • Coach Josh Edmed – Connecticut College Women’s Volleyball
  • Coach Kelly Thompson – Roger Williams University Women’s Basketball
  • Coach John Klepacki – Western New England University Men’s Lacrosse

The panel shares their insights and strategies to help high school athletes best prepare for the jump to collegiate athletics!

  • 00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • 13:03: Topic of Discussion – Physical and Technical Preparation
  • 26:44: Topic of Discussion – Academic, Social, and Emotional Wellness
  • 43:14: Topic of Discussion – Communication and Accountability Throughout the Recruiting Process
  • 58:12: Webinar Closure – “Finish the Drill”

Episode #6: Season III

Zach Hoffman – Founder & CEO of Swiss-Army Leadership

Leads with Empower

“The most important thing for a leader to do is to earn people’s respect. Leave a legacy. By legacy, many people think accomplishments, accolades, and money. To me, it’s about lasting impact – people won’t remember my accolades or how much money I have, they WILL remember our interactions.”

Zach Hoffman – Founder and CEO of Swiss-Army Leadership Leads with Empower. Zach is originally from Pittsburg, PA and grew up with dreams of playing in the NFL. While Zach’s childhood dream did not come to fruition, Zach discovered his true calling as a coach, mentor, and leader! Zach shares his story from college athlete in the States and professional American Football Player in Europe to authoring a book (Finding the Good Life as a SWA Leader) and founding Swiss-Army Leadership!
00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • Introducing Zach Hoffman, the Founder and CEO of Swiss-Army Leadership. Zach joined the Lead with Empower podcast on the tail-end of his trip to visit family in California. He will soon be arriving back home in Austria to continue his work as a coach and small business owner!
  • Zach introduces Swiss-Army Leadership and shares how his experiences in 6 different countries helped form the tools leaders need to effectively relate with others.
  • “It is so easy to assume that the way we were brought up and the way we grew up is the only way to lead. However, it is not until you step out of your own realm when you realize that it’s not the only way. The most important thing a leader can do is to earn people’s respect.”
13:15: The “Dorm Room Decision” – Zach’s Journey to from the United States to Europe
  • Coming to the realization that his NFL dream was not going to happen led to a difficult decision.
  • His subsequent trip to Poland showed Zach “the world from an outside perspective”.
  • “Without the tough decision and adversity, I would not have written a book and started a business to mentor young people.”
24:30: Professional American Football in Europe
  • Zach discusses differences in the game when compared to his experiences in the United States as well as the tremendous amount of growth in Europe from 2012-2021
  • Zach also shares insight into his transition from professional athlete to youth coach – highlighting the following lesson from his playing days:
  • “Run towards adversity and step out of your comfort zone. On the other side of that adversity is our happiness, our destiny, and our legacy.”
34:16: Swiss-Army Leadership (SWAL)
  • We learn about Zach’s inspiration to take an adventure into entrepreneurship and how his passion to connect with people drives the mission of SWAL.
  • “Listen to people’s stories, ask questions, not answer questions. This strategy will make you a more well-rounded person, a person that people want to follow. It will allow you to create your legacy.”
43:33: The Home Stretch and Finishing the Drill
  • As always, we wrap up with 5 quick-hit questions; including (1) Zach’s “out of sport” role model as a child, (2) his favorite athlete, (3) most memorable sport accomplishment, (4) future vision for SWAL, and (5) advice for aspiring leaders!

Episode #5: Season III

Sara Stirling – VP of Marketing Operations

Empower Adventures & Empower Leadership

Leads with Empower

“Just do it, take the first step. Tomorrow will always be tomorrow until we stop saying it.”

Sara Stirling is back for part 2 of a 3-part “podcast mini-series” focused on Goal Setting and Goal Achievement in 2021. Sara shares her personal goal for 2021 (Create 10 new art pieces per month), her plan for achievement, and an update as to how things are going 5-weeks into her goal achievement journey!
Check out Sara’s Art Live-Streams on Twitch
View Sara’s Art on Etsy
00:00: Episode Introduction and “Roll Call”
  • We catch up with Sara Stirling, the VP of Marketing Operations for Empower Adventures and Empower Leadership, to receive a “5-weeks in” update on her goal achievement journey
  • Sara also provides updates on her with with the Empower Adventure Parks in Florida, Virginia, and Connecticut
12:06: A Refresher on Episode 1
  • Sara provides a “refresher” for those who missed the first episode of our podcast mini-series including what her actual goal is and why it is important to her
23:28: Formation of Success Habits – The Foundation Has Been Laid
  • Sara provides an update on her goal achievement journey that focuses on the formation of her success habits
  • Sara also dishes on some of the challenges she has faced thus far, strategies implemented to overcome those challenges, and the concept of “resetting expectations”
33:15: The “Home Stretch”
  • 5 question “rapid fire” to finish off the episode, including (1) Sara’s inspiration for her upcoming art creation, (2) what music Sara is currently listening to, (3) what Sara is currently watching, (4) Sara’s key strength and weakness, and (5) Sara’s advice to those who haven’t started their 2021 goal setting and achievement journey
  • “Just do it, take the first step. Tomorrow will always be tomorrow until we stop saying it.”

Episode #4: Season III

Ulish Booker – CEO Spartan Global Network

Leads with Empower

“At the end of the day, you stop running as fast, jumping as high, and hitting as hard – Father Time is undefeated. You have to have something to rely on and for me, education is that formal process that helped me complete tasks. You will need an education to reimagine and re-develop who you are!”

Episode IV, Season 3 – Ulish Booker, CEO of Spartan Global Network, Leads with Empower! Ulish is a retired professional football player, with World Bowl (NFL Europe) and Super Bowl rings, who has taken the jump into the adventure of entrepreneurship. Ulish shares his story and leadership lessons learned along the way from West Haven High School to Michigan State University, followed by his jump to the professional ranks, and his most recent adventure – founding the Spartan Global Network!

00:00: Episode Opening and Guest “Roll Call”
  • Ulish introduces us to Spartan Global Network and shares his thoughts on Super Bowl LV, Tom Brady, and his former teammate, Plaxico Burress
14:10: From West Haven High School Football to Entrepreneur
  • “I wasn’t one of those guys that put the playbook on his head and learned by osmosis. I had to work tirelessly on my study habits both on and off the field.”
  • “A lot of the experiences and adversity that you face as an athlete – if you’re smart, you take those things and transition them into your civilian life and it makes you a better person.”
35:45: A Time of Transition – Challenges Faced and Strategies to Overcome
  • Ulish discusses being cut by an NFL team and the work/determination required to continue his chase towards becoming a professional football player.
42:03: The Importance of Education and the Entrepreneurship Adventure
  • “At the end of the day, you stop running as fast, jumping as high, and hitting as hard – Father Time is undefeated. You have to have something to rely on and for me, education was the formal task that helped me complete tasks, while reimagining and re-developing who I was.”
45:09: Spartan Global Network
  • Ulish shares his insight into the birth of SGN and discusses the services offered via the SGN Online Platform- including health and wellbeing, travel, small business, and life insurance.
  • “The value of who you are is the legacy you leave behind.”
  • Learn more about Spartan Global Network
55:15: The Home Stretch
  • We wrap up the episode hearing Ulish’s thoughts on (1) the Pizza Capital of the World, (2) leadership lessons learned from Coach McCarthy, Coach Saban, Coach Williams, and Coach Cowher, (3) a football lesson that sticks with him to this day, (4) future vision of SGN, and (5) advice for high school athletes aspiring to compete at the next level.
  • “Remove all doubt, remove any questions, and leave no stone unturned so you are best prepared and able to perfect your craft.”

Episode #3: Season III

Alex Blaise, Jess Stanley, Nick Perkins, Lisa Daly, and Chase du Pont

from the Peer Leadership Program at Hamden Hall Country Day School

Lead with Empower

“The emotional quotient is a huge part of the Peer Leadership Program. And it is also important not to discount the importance of someone having a passion to be a leader.”

“I thought that having an experience where you get to be in a real-world leadership situation would be very useful and practical going forward.”

We are joined by three students and two advisors from Hamden Hall Country Day School. Lisa Daly and Chase du Pont, the two advisors of the Princeton Peer Leadership Program at Hamden hall, as well as Jess Stanley, Alex Blaise, and Nick Perkins, senior students and Peer Leaders, join the Lead with Empower podcast to discuss their leadership experiences, their upcoming “Quarter 3” projects, and much more!

00:00: Episode Opening and Guest “Roll Call”
  • Lisa (Teacher, Arts Department) and Chase (Teacher, History Department) share some background about the PL program and help introduce our student guests, Jess, Alex, and Nick
  • Jess, Nick, and Alex discuss why they applied for the PL program
17:50: What it Means to be a Peer Leader
  • Alex, Nick, and Jess discuss their development as leaders through participation in the PL program as well as other “out of classroom” opportunities at Hamden Hall
21:12: Personal Development
  • The Peer Leaders share some strategies they have implemented to guide their personal leadership development and discuss initiatives they are part of to build community at Hamden Hall
27:50: “The Why” – Peer Leadership Quarter 3 Project
  • The PL program includes various student-driven projects and we learn, from Chase and Lisa, the importance of providing students with hands-on “learn to lead” opportunities
36:00: Identify the Needs, Create a Plan, and Act Courageously
  • Nick, Jess, and Alex share the concepts and the why’s for their upcoming Q3 projects
41:05: The Impact
  • Lisa and Chase discuss the impact of the PL program on the students who participate, highlighting “perspective” and the “say yes challenge” as key takeaways for the Peer Leaders
44:25: Finish the Drill
  • Alex, Jess, and Nick share (1) who their inspiration is and why, (2) what their next adventure in life is, (3) how Hamden Hall has prepared them for their next adventure, (4) their nerves or fear as they prepare for their next adventure, and (5) the positive impact they hope they leave for the Hamden Hall Community Members

Episode #2: Season III

Ken Martin

Co-Owner of Colony Grill Development, LLC and Adjunct Professor of Hospitality at the University of New Haven

Leads with Empower

“Business is about how you make people feel. Either close people off and be a gatekeeper, or open your arms and be an advocate.”

Season III of the Lead with Empower Podcast continues with another tremendous guest! We are joined by Ken Martin for episode 2 of season III. Ken is co-owner of Colony Grill Development, LLC (Colony Grill) and has just begun his first year as an adjunct professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of New Haven. Ken does a wonderful job sharing stories and leadership insight about his professional career, athletic experience, and so much more!

Check out Colony Grill’s website, of follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!
00:00: Episode Opening and Guest “Roll Call”
  • Ken Martin, co-owner of Colony Grill – Bar-style Pizza and Beer restaurants with locations in Connecticut (Stamford, Norwalk, Milford, and Fairfield), Virginia (Arlington), and NY (Port Chester)
  • Adjunct Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of New Haven
  • Little League Word Series Champion (Trumbull, 1989)
08:01: Leadership Challenges in the Restaurant/Hospitality Industry
  • Ken dishes on the importance of communication in mission alignment and in team functions
14:55: Leadership Challenges During the Pandemic
  • “We focused on being present and out in front to decipher the most important information to disseminate to our team members.”
20:54: Without Struggle, There is No Progress
  • Ken discusses some “silver linings” from 2020 and how Colony Grill is stronger and more aligned in 2021.
24:30: The “Essential Skills” of a Colony Grill Employee
  • Ken discusses the importance of interpersonal skills in the Restaurant/Hospitality Industry
27:58: Experiences that have shaped Ken Martin
  • We learn about Ken’s experiences as a Little League World Series Champion, college student-athlete, and professional career prior to Colony Grill.
  • “Every experience that you have as a young child, high school or college student, and young professional lead to opportunities and interactions that you can take a little bit from and put in your tool box.”
41:00: The Educational Side of Hospitality
  • Ken shares his inspiration to become an adjunct professor at the University of New Haven
  • “You don’t realize how much you’re teaching everyday in your own business. For the past 11 years, I’ve been teaching at some level.”
  • “Business is about how you make people feel. Either close people off and be a gatekeeper, or open your arms and be an advocate.”
50:08: The “Home Stretch”
  • We learn about Ken’s childhood idols/role models, his dream “pro athlete” scenario, and what skills he and his wife hope to instill in their children.
  • “It’s up to you.” and “Why not you?”

Episode #1: Season III

Sara Stirling

VP of Marketing Operations – Empower Adventures and Empower Leadership

Leads with Empower

“It was just something in my gut that I knew I had to do for my future, for myself – just to be the best version of me!”

Season III of the Lead with Empower Podcast has arrived and we could not ask for a better guest to help us get things going strong in 2021 than Sara Stirling! Sara joined the Empower Team back in 2018 and currently serves as the VP of Marketing for Empower Adventures and Empower Leadership. Sara recently published a Lead with Empower blog article titled “Making Moves in 2021” and shares her leadership journey, along with her goals and plan of achievement, during our conversation! This is the first of 3 podcast episodes highlighting Sara’s goal achievement journey.

Check out Sara’s Art Live-Streams on Twitch and her Art (available for purchase) on Etsy
00:00: Episode Opening and Guest Introductions
  • As VP of Marketing, Sara is a key contributor to the ENTIRE Empower Operation!
03:45: Guest “Roll Call”
  • We learn about Sara’s journey from student at the University of Florida, to young professional in the live-entertainment/events industry, and to her current role with Empower Adventures and Empower Leadership.
  • “It was just something in my gut that I knew I had to do for my future and for myself – just to be the best version of me!”
10:15: The “Leadership Field Experience”
  • Being an Empower Team Member is a true exercise in leadership! Sara shares stories and insight into her thoughts on “getting out of your comfort zone”.
16:25: Doing “Empowerment” Differently in 2020
  • Sara discusses the “what and why” behind the Lead with Empower Newsletter and other “digital” products developed during the pandemic.
22:38: “Making Moves in 2021”
  • We learn about Sara’s most recent blog article – Making Moves in 2021 – that was featured in the January edition of the Lead with Empower e-Newsletter
27:37: Time to Create
  • Sara shares her personal goal for 2021; including “the why”, her plan for achievement, and what she hopes to learn during her goal achievement journey.
38:48: Live-Streaming Art??? You Betcha
  • We wrap up the episode learning about Sara’s desire to help others create!

Season II of the Lead with Empower Podcast

Episode #15

Donna, Tony, Greg, and Matt Jaskot

Leads with Empower

“You always have to be able to evaluate what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. If there’s a better way to do it, then do it that way. You can’t be afraid to recognize when you’re wrong, learn from your mistakes, and learn from others.”

The Lead with Empower Podcast wraps up 2020 with Donna, Tony, Greg, and Matt Jaskot (my parents and siblings!) – The Jaskot Family Leads with Empower! Donna is the Assistant to the Headmaster and Principal at Xavier High School, Tony is now retired, but served as a Teacher, Coach, and Athletic Director at Xavier High School for over 40 years. Greg is the Associate Director of Advancement and Associate Head Coach of the Football Program at Xavier High School. Dr. Matt Jaskot is a Professor in the Music Department at The College of the Holy Cross. We hope you enjoy a little family fun with a leadership spin in the final 2020 episode of the Lead with Empower Podcast!

Musical Credit to Matt Jaskot

Here are the show notes:

 00:00: Episode Opening and Guest Introductions
  • The first ever “family event” on the Lead with Empower Podcast. Greg (our first guest) returns to join our brother Matt, and our parents for the final episode of 2020!
04:00: Guest “Roll Call”
  • Donna, Tony, Greg, and Matt discuss their current roles (professionally) and how leadership plays a role in their day-to-day “operations”
  • “You always have to be able to evaluate what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. If there’s a better way to do it, then do it that way. You can’t be afraid to recognize when you’re wrong, learn from your mistakes, and learn from others.”
29:26: Leadership Qualities
  • We learn about the leadership qualities that Donna, Tony, Greg, and Matt value
  • Passion, work-ethic, humility, being prepared, punctuality, effort, dedication, leading by example, not “going through the motions”, having the desire to get better every day, and holding yourself accountability
  • “If you want to be successful at anything, you need to have a great deal of passion for it.”
47:01: The Importance of Experiences
  • Donna, Tony, Greg, and Matt each share a personal experience that has had a positive impact on them as people and as leaders
66:10: Episode Closure
  • We learn who inspired our guests, their “silver linings” from 2020, and a few other fun bits of information from Donna, Tony, Greg, Matt, and I!

Episode #14

Alyssa Caliguri, Mia Cariglia, and Anthony Gelsomini

Professional Staff Member and Student-Leaders from the Office of First Year Student Success at Western New England University

Leads with Empower

“You have to be passionate about helping others before helping yourself. Our Peer Advisors and Orientation Group Leaders may be quiet or even nervous when interviewing, but it shows us that they care. We look for people who are friendly, able to handle stressful situations and manage their time, and who care about helping others.”

Follow Western New England University on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep up with Alyssa, Mia, Anthony, and the First Year Student Success Team!

Alyssa Caliguri, Assistant Director for 1st Year Student Success at Western New England University (WNEU), Mia Cariglia (2021), and Anthony Gelsomini (2021), both Orientation Group Leaders and Peer Advisors at WNEU, Lead with Empower. Empower Leadership has delivered a handful of team building experiences for the WNEU Orientation Group Leaders (OGL’s), Peer Advisors (PA’s), and 1st Year Students since May 2020 and we are so happy to catch up with Alyssa, Mia, and Anthony to see how the first semester has gone up at WNEU! Here are the show notes:
00:00: Episode Opening and Guest Introductions
  • We learn a bit more about Alyssa, Mia, and Anthony, as well as their roles as Orientation Group Leaders and Peer Advisors.
18:25: Takeaways from Training Events with Empower Leadership
  • Alyssa, Mia, and Anthony discuss their training and preparation for what has been a very unique year in student orientation.
21:50: Leadership Challenges and Strategies Implemented to Overcome
  • We learn about the leadership challenges faced and the strategies implemented by Alyssa, Mia, and Anthony to overcome those challenges and provide the WNEU first year students with high quality programming and experiences.
38:22: Valuable Experiences During 2020
  • Alyssa, Mia, and Anthony discuss their experiences as leaders/student-leaders in 2020 and how those experiences will benefit them in their futures.
50:45: Leadership Self-Assessment
  • We learn about the leadership strengths and challenges of Alyssa, Mia, and Anthony.
58:30: Episode Closure
  • Some fun, quick-hitting, questions to wrap up the episode, including their preferred method of getting out of their comfort zones (dance in public vs. sing in public), a book, movie, or person who inspires them, a message they would share with “first year Alyssa, Mia, and Anthony”, and advice for students preparing for the 2nd semester.
  • Alyssa, Mia, and Anthony also ask Dan some questions – settling a couple “OGL debates” (what type of muffin would you be and Chipotle vs. Moe’s) as well as discussing some of Dan’s takeaways from the pandemic.

Episode #13

Dave Fazzuoli

North Haven High School Physical Education Teacher

Leads with Empower

“I fell in love with outdoor adventure as a sophomore, I liked the whole idea of challenging myself, being outside, interacting with my peers, and working together on a common task. When you are called upon to do a task, it’s you vs. the element. If you don’t achieve the goal, you learn to rebound. When you do achieve the goal, you have to figure out a way to help others do the same!”

Our next guest on the Lead with Empower Podcast is Dave Fazzuoli. Dave is a physical education teachers at North Haven High School whose primary course is “Project Adventure” – a sophomore physical education elective. After spending 2 years at Ridge Road Elementary School (2003-2005), Dave took over the Project Adventure PE curriculum at North Haven High School. Since 2005, Dave has helped students develop as leaders through a very intentionally designed adventure program.

Here are the show notes from Dave Fazzuoli Leads with Empower:
00:00 – Episode Opening
  • Dave shares his journey from NHHS Student to NHHS Teacher – crediting the impact his Project Adventure experience had on his time at NHHS and his career path
21:25 – The Project Adventure PE Program at North Haven High School
  • We learn about the curricular design of Dave’s Project Adventure program and the importance of relationship and trust development in leadership
32:25 – The Benefit of Setting High Expectations for Students
  • “If you want to get to the next level, surround yourself with the right people and trust yourself and those around you. You can accomplish a lot more than you think.”
  • Dave also dishes on the importance of goal setting, celebrating successes, being resilient in moments of adversity – all leading to more comfortable and confident students
34:45 – Leadership During Uncertain/Challenge/Adverse Times
  • Dave discusses the importance of “taking what it gives you and trying to make the best out of it”
  • We also discuss the importance of flexibility and adaptability in leadership
50:30 – The Importance of Experiential Adventure Education
  • Relationship and trust development plus strategically designed experiences set up a dynamic in which students develop
60:55 – A True Leadership Field Experience – the Student Facilitators
  • Dave shares the leadership skills he values in his student facilitators (Juniors and Seniors). The student facilitators help Dave deliver the Project Adventure curriculum to the sophomore students
01:26:03 – Episode Closure
  • Dave discusses his favorite “on the ground” and “aerial” adventures, memorable groups he’s worked with at Empower Leadership, his definition of leadership, and shares an inspirational message for students and teachers.

Episode #12

Calvin Joustra, Chris Fox, and Paul Cappadona

Lead with Empower

“If you’ve ever wanted to try something new or experience something different but you are too scared to do so, by taking 2 seconds to summon up that courage to do it, you will be amazed at the outcome you will have!”

Calvin Joustra (Empower Adventures Tampa Bay), Chris Fox (Empower Adventures Middleburg), and Paul Cappadona (Empower Adventure Park at Nomads) join me for a great conversation about the offerings at their Empower Adventures locations, leadership lessons learned from a wide range of challenges faced during 2020, and a sneak preview into what’s in store in 2021 at each facility! Additionally, Calvin, Chris, and Paul share information about the awesome holiday gift certificate deals that are being offered at their locations!
01:45: Calvin Joustra, Empower Adventures Tampa Bay – Visit www.zipontampabay.com for more information about the adventure experiences and holiday gift deals at Empower Adventures Tampa Bay!
38:41: Chris Fox, Empower Adventures Middleburg – Visit www.empoweradventures.com for more information about the adventure experiences and holiday gift deals at Empower Adventures Middleburg!
01:13:35: Paul Cappadona, Empower Adventure Park at Nomads – Visit www.empoweradventurepark.com for more information about the adventure experiences and holiday gift deals at the Empower Adventure Park at Nomads! Click “Book Now” to view gift deals

Episode #11

Dr. Jan Jones

Leads with Empower

“Nothing comes easy to me. I have to work really hard for it, but I’m willing to put in the time. If you’re willing to put in the time, it does pay off!”

Show Notes: Dr. Jones is the Coordinator for Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of New Haven and a great friend of Empower Leadership. Jan brings a wealth of valuable leadership insight to our conversation; applicable to the hospitality and tourism industry and far beyond.

00:00 – Episode opening, Dr. Jones introduction, and challenges faced in the tourism and hospitality industry
  • Jan discusses the impact COVID-19 has had on the industry and shares strategies implemented to mitigate those challenges.
  • “Tourism is a system. When there is a piece of the system that is not working, it affects the whole system.”
11:36 – Jan and I discuss the end of the 2019/2020 academic year, the leadership challenges faced, and the tactics implemented to overcome those challenges; highlighting the importance of being prepared for the unexpected and ready to adapt and adjust to those situations.
  • “We have a tendency to overwhelm people with new stuff. It is important that we focus on what we want the students to walk away with and focus on the very basic things we are comfortable doing to make that happen. Focus on a couple things, do them well, and then build upon that foundation.”
Show Notes Continued:
25:11 – Dr. Jones shares insight into the first semester of the 2020/2021 academic year; focusing on the preparation by the faculty and staff as well as the students wellbeing.
  • “I went from showing up to class, turning on the computer, and immediately engaging with students. Now there is a big checklist to complete before we can do any of that.”
33:28 – Jan shares thoughts on how her students have managed the impact COVID-19 has had on their education. Discussing noticeable changes in their behaviors between the Spring and Fall semesters.
  • Jan highlights the importance of focus on the wellbeing of her students as well as her own personal wellbeing – health always comes first!
  • Jan also shares the importance of adapting and overcoming – “After some of the early Zoom classes, I would turn off the computer and cry – saying this is not what I signed up for. I would feel sorry for myself for about a minute, and then would say, OK, how can I make this better?”
38:55 – Dr. Jones is a Blackbelt in Karate, Red Belt in Taekwondo, and has trained in Muay Thai Boxing!!! Jan discuss the role recreation and exercise have played in her life and also shares some health/wellness initiatives she has been a part of since the onset of the pandemic; including:
60:20 – We learn about Jan’s collegiate and professional journey. Dr. Jones shares how a study abroad trip to Cuba changed her life!
69:55 – Episode Closure – Jan shares:
  • What she hopes her students take away from their experiences in 2020
  • Who her childhood inspirations were and why
  • Her music choice for her runs and workouts
  • What currently inspires and motivates her
  • Her thoughts on who she is as a leader

Episode #10

Jania Pagan, Janaya Merced, Jada Merced, and Kendrick Long

Lead with Empower

“You are truly in control of your future, you just have to be willing to work for it!”

Jania Pagan (Senior, Penn Foster HS), Janaya Merced (Junior, Penn Foster HS), Jada Merced (Freshman, SABIS International Charter School), Kendrick Long (Senior, Springfield Renaissance School), and James Lightfoot (Urban League of Springfield) join the Lead with Empower Podcast. Jania, Janaya, Jada, and Kendrick are all young adults living in Springfield, MA. who participate in youth development programming with James Lightfoot – Director of Youth and Education Programs with the Urban League of Springfield.
 The Urban League of Springfield is a community outreach organization working to empower the African American community in greater-Springfield. James’ work focuses on providing essential resources (i.e. college preparation/awareness and educational equity) to youths and young adults. Jania, Janaya, Jada, and Kendrick are special and unique to James in that they have lofty goals for themselves and have shown an uncommon determination and drive to achieve those goals!

Speaking with Jada, Kendrick, Janaya, and Jania was an absolute inspiration. It is important for all adults to get to know the youths in their communities – they are what our futures hold and they will use their talents to bring people together, strengthen communities, and create a better tomorrow for us all!

00:00: We kick off the episode by asking the students to introduce themselves and share their thoughts on the pending election results
  • “There’s a greater sense of possibility for people who are minorities.”
08:45: James highlights the mission of the Urban League of Springfield and shares why he chose Jada, Janaya, Jania, and Kendrick to be on the Lead with Empower Podcast
  • “These four young adults have set goals for themselves and have demonstrated a level of determination and drive to achieve those goals.”
12:15: Jania, Janaya, Jada, and Kendrick reflect upon the issues of racial injustice and inequality experienced in 2020 and share why they are inspired by the pending election of Kamala Harris and Joe Biden.
  • “We have always seen racism because we are black. We are not looking at it from outside the box, we are in the box living it. Our work is never done, but we are not going to stop!”
  • “I am a young woman of color and to see a grown woman of color do that lets me know that the possibilities for me are endless!”
28:51: The students discuss some of the challenges (both academic and social) they have faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic and strategies they have implemented to overcome those challenges
  • “I’m not going to give myself any excuses; I want to learn and I am going to persevere!”
  • “I don’t know how I’m going to make it, but I know I am going to; I won’t let myself give up.”
41:39: Jania, Janaya, Jada, and Kendrick reflect on their experiences in 2020 and the valuable lessons they will take from those experiences
  • “Life experience – I want to do everything I can to make sure that everything we have faced is easier for the next person.”
  • “Never give up, never stop fighting for what you deserve. It will change and I want to be part of the change!”
49:26: The students discuss the importance of recognizing and leveraging support systems and available resources
 53:19: The students describe someone or something in their personal lives that inspires and motivates them to be their best
  • “Everyone I come across inspires me in their own unique way. They are all giving me a flower and I am trying to turn those flowers into a bouquet!”
58:51: Jania, Janaya, Jada, and Kendrick share their goals and dreams and discuss what they need to do to achieve their goals and realize their dreams
  • “You are truly in control of your future, you just have to be willing to work for it!”
67:25: Episode Closure – the students discuss how they can have a positive impact on their community and share wisdom and inspiration for young adults who may be struggling
  • “Any person, no matter their background, experiences, race, sexuality, can make it to the top!”

Episode #9

Tanner Kern

Endurance Athlete and Content Creator

Leads with Empower

“The road to a goal, no matter how big or small, is a process. There will be highs, lows, and experiences of every feeling in between, but you cannot cheat the process towards success.”

To learn more about Tanner and his inspirational journey, visit his Website and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Tanner Kern Leads with Empower! Tanner is a recent graduate from the University of Connecticut and is an endurance athlete, inspirational content creator, and freelance writer. During our conversation, you will hear about Tanner’s inspirational journey from 340 pound Division I football player at Lafayette College to 200 pound endurance athlete, as well as the important role leadership has played in Tanner’s life as an athlete, a person struggling with physical and mental health, and much more!

  • 00:00: Opening Segment and Introduction to Tanner Kern
  • 05:40: Tanner dishes on his decision to attend Xavier High School; sharing stories and insight from his 4 years at “The X”. Tanner highlights Coach Sean Marinan as a key leadership inspiration at Xavier.
  • 16:15: We hear about Tanner’s jump to Division I athletics at Lafayette College. Tanner was a “day 1” starter at Center as a 17 year old freshmen!
  • 24:25: Tanner discusses the end of his football career and the his transformation to becoming an endurance athlete. Multiple concussions and severe post concussion symptoms ended Tanner’s football career, leading to struggles with his physical and mental health. Tanner found love in running – not because he loved running, but because of his love for competition!
  • 37:00: Running for a Cause – Tanner shares insight into a 100 mile run (in 35 hours!!!) in support of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and a run from Canada to Connecticut in support of Foodshare.
  • 46:15: Tanner shares stories about his personal development through endurance running, highlighting the 40 percent rule (David Goggins)
  • 49.25: We learn about Tanner’s website, blog, and podcast – his vehicles to help inspire people to discover their best!
  • 53:25: Closing Segment – Tanner and I wrap up the episode with a few “quick hitters”

Episode #8

Hildie Heck

Athletic Director Lyme Old Lyme Schools

Leads with Empower

“Be flexible – learn how to adapt and create!”

Follow the Hildie and the Lyme Old Lyme Athletics Program on Twitter

Hildie Heck, the Athletic Director for Lyme Old Lyme Schools, joins the Lead with Empower for episode 8 of season 2. Hildie has been in the Athletic Director role for the Wildcats since 2016. Prior to joining the Lyme Old Lyme community, Hildie was a physical education/health instructor and coach at Classical Magnet School in Hartford. Here are the show notes:

  • 02:35: We discuss Fall Athletics in CT and in the Shoreline Conference. Hildie shares a very positive assessment with regards to how her student/athletes and coaches, as well as the other schools in the Shoreline Conference, have managed the new safety protocol and scheduling adjustments.
  • 08:50: Leadership Challenges during Uncertain Times – “Leading is easy when you’re winning…”. Hildie highlights the importance of communication, trusting relationships, and creative solutions to overcome unique challenges.
  • 18:45: We hear about Hildie’s experiences at Springfield College and how those experiences helped shape her as a leader.
  • 29:19: Hildie and I discuss her time as a teacher/coach at Classical Magnet School and her jump to Lyme Old Lyme Schools for the Athletic Director position. Hildie shares challenges faced and overcome, and the strategies implemented to do so!
  • 42:03: Relationships and Skill Building – Hildie shares her hopes for what each student athlete takes from their time in the Lyme Old Lyme athletics program.
  • Episode Closure: We talk about Hildie’s experiences as a running coach, discuss the current plan for Winter Sports in CT, and advice for Winter Sports athletes and coaches. We also learn about Hildie’s youth and current inspirations and the importance of participating in competitive sports.

Episode #7

Steve Opalenik, LMHC

Leads with Empower

“Motivation isn’t fairy dust; you don’t just sprinkle it on you and you’re good to go. Motivation comes from making a decision and committing to that decision.”

Our next guest on the Lead with Empower Podcast is Steve Opalenik. Steve is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Founder of The Promethean Project – a non-profit, community-based whole body wellness services provider. I first met Steve back in 2009 during our work together with Springfield College’s LACES Program and, since then, Steve has done nothing short of tremendous work in the field of mental, physical, and emotional health! Here are highlights from Steve Opalenik Leads with Empower:

  • 00:00: Episode Opening and Steve Opalenik Introduction
  • 10:30: We learn more about Steve’s non-profit, The Promethean Project and hear about the leadership challenges faced during Steve’s “entrepreneurial leap” in 2015
  • 20:45: Steve discusses the mission of The Promethean Project and the programs currently offered. Learn more about The Promethean Project
  • 31:40: “Break the Chains, Find Your Flame” – Steve dishes on his podcast which is focused on helping listeners break free from the chains of society to find their potential
  • 42:50: Steve talks about his time as a student at the University of Massachusetts (B.A. Psychology, 2005) and Springfield College (Master’s in Education, Marriage, & Family Therapy, 20011).
  • 46:45: Steve and I talk about our time “cutting our teeth in the field of human development” with Springfield College’s L.A.C.E.S. Program (Leaders in Academics, Community Engagement, & Service)
  • 56:15: Steve discusses a few personal stories regarding Leadership of Self, Leadership of Others, and his Leadership Legacy.
  • 01:01:35: Push-Ups, Pancakes, and Positivity – You’ll just have to listen!!!
  • 01:08:45: Steve shares an uplifting and inspirational message for those who are experiencing mental health challenges during the pandemic.
  • 01:13:00: We close the episode hearing about Steve’s desired and actual superpowers.

Follow the Steve and the great work he is doing with The Promethean Project on Facebook and on Instagram

Episode #6

Coach Jim Hofher

Leads with Empower

“First figure out the who, then figure out what. To find the guys that will succeed in your program, look at their character, trustworthiness, and work ethic. Find the guys that you want to be around every day and who want to be around you and your program every day!”

Jim Hofher, Defensive Analyst for Wake Forest University Football, joins the Lead with Empower Podcast! Jim has coached at both the collegiate and professional levels for 42 years. Jim offers tremendous leadership insight applicable in football and in life!

02:30: We welcome Jim to the Lead with Empower Podcast, check-in on him and his family, and hear about the start of the Wake Forest University Football Season.

13:00: Jim discusses the importance of communication in leadership; specifically when dealing with uncertain situations

17:15: We hear about Jim’s time as a high school and collegiate student-athlete, as well as the start of Jim’s coaching career. Jim shares thoughts on the importance of relationship development in coaching and in leadership.

34:45: Jim talks about the jump from assistant coach to head coach and discusses the importance of being a curious learner as a leader.

40:15: Jim and I discuss the importance of recruiting athletes with high character, tremendous work ethic, and trustworthiness. Jim shares leadership advice for aspiring college athletes and aspiring coaches. “There is no easy road, it requires initiative.”

53:20: We wrap up the episode hearing about Jim’s childhood inspiration, student-athletes who have “wowed” him, and a great “non-football” book for aspiring leaders (Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins)

Episode #5

Ken Watson and Victoria Alderman from the Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg Lead with Empower

“We teach our scholars that everything in life is not peaches and cream; there will be challenges and adversity. We help them build the skills to grind and persevere, stay on the right path, and achieve their personal greatness!”

Ken Watson (Dean of Students) and Victoria Alderman (Community Relations Coordinator) from the Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg (FL) join the Lead with Empower Podcast. Ken and Victoria are both wonderful people doing some tremendous work with the Academy Prep scholars and both share a wealth of leadership insight and wisdom during our episode together, here are the highlights from our discussion!

  • 02:30 – Ken and Victoria discuss the start of the 2020/2021 school year at AP, reflect on the end of the 2019/2020 school year and discuss and the importance of communication with their scholars and families to make sure the scholars have all they need to develop into transformational leaders.
  • 14:07 – We learn some background about the Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg; including the AP Mission and the “AP Way”.
  • 27:20 – Victoria and Ken share insight into their respective roles at AP and discuss their journey to AP.
  • 40:05 – Victoria and Ken discuss the key leadership skills scholars develop during their 4 years at AP.
  • 46:00 – We hear about strategies implemented by AP to help scholars build connections and a strong sense of community despite the disconnection associated with distance learning.
  • 01:04:41 – Victoria and Ken discuss their childhood inspirations, what currently motivates/inspires them, and share uplifting messages for students and teachers

Follow Academy Prep on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to learn more about the tremendous work they do!

Episode #4

Dr. Terrell Hill Leads with Empower

“Leadership is about legacy – being out front, taking a risk, and making a way for those following you. You get blessed to be a blessing to others!”

Dr. Terrell Hill has over 27 years experience in education and educational leadership – currently serving as the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources with Windsor Public Schools. In addition to his work with Windsor Schools, Dr. Hill is also the Founder and President of the Black Leaders and Administrators Consortium, Inc. (BLAC). You will find out very quickly during our episode that Dr. Hill is all about leadership – sharing wisdom and insight from his 27 years of experience with students, educators, educational leaders, and more! Highlights from our episode include:

  • The importance of leadership during the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; blending the “whatever we need to do to get this done” attitude with flexibility, and a level of calmness to exist and thrive during moments of uncertainty.
  • A discussion about Windsor Schools’ past work with Empower Leadership (New Teacher Orientation Events and Administrative Retreats) and the importance of “comfort zone expanding” experiences for educators.
  • Learning about Dr. Hill’s journey from Springfield, MA to the United States Army, and to his current role with Windsor Schools; including those who influenced him along the way!
  • Dr. Hill’s dissertation study, The Career Paths of Black and White Superintendents, and how his study served as an inspiration to found BLAC, Inc. Learn more about BLAC at www.blacleaders.org

Episode #3

Al Carbone Leads with Empower

“If you’re not telling your story, someone else is and they’re probably doing it wrong!”

Al Carbone is in his 17th year as Commissioner of the Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) – one of the premiere athletic conferences for high school sports in the State of Connecticut. Al, a formal high school and collegiate athlete from East Haven, CT, does a tremendous job as the ambassador for the SCC. Al and I discuss the return of high school sports in Connecticut and much more during our episode, including:

  • Al’s background in athletics and his role/responsibilities as the Commissioner of the SCC.
  • The current state of high school sports – most notably, the decision making process with regards to restarting high school athletics this Fall.
  • Leadership lessons that high school athletes across the State can glean from the impact COVID-19 has had on high school athletics.
  • Why the return to high school sports is so important for athletes, their families, and their school communities.

Episode #2

James Lightfoot III Leads with Empower

James is currently the Director of Youth and Education Programs for the Urban League of Springfield, Inc. In addition to his youth development work with the Urban League of Springfield, Inc., James serves on multiple boards of the local chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. James and I discuss many topics during our episode, including:

  • James’ journey from Detroit, MI, to Grand Valley State University, and Springfield College. James shares stories about his “personal commitment challenge”, his study abroad trip to Australia, and his calling as a youth development professional.
  • The importance of helping youths and young adults identify their vision, develop an action plan, and make the most out of every situation in school, at home, and in your community.
  • The challenges youths and young adults have faced in 2020 and the mentorship, leadership, and support provided to uplift and empower those young adults!
  • How James leverages performing and creative arts in his mentorship and leadership of the youths and young adults her serves.

Episode #1

Dr. Ted France Leads with Empower

Ted is a faculty member in the Physical Education and Health Education major at Springfield College and also serves as the President of the Faculty Senate. Ted is one of, if not the best experiential educator I have ever crossed paths with – a true craftsman! Ted and I discuss many topics during our episode, including:

  • A behind the scenes look at the operational tempo of the leaders at Springfield College to prepare for a return to campus in the Fall
  • Leadership advice for students and teachers who are embarking on a very unique start to school
  • “Eye opening” moments as physical education students at Springfield College
  • The philosophy and implementation of experiential education
  • The education and development of leaders through intentional skill development experiences

Lead With Empower Podcast

Listen to Season I

With 24 episodes filled with leadership insights, Season I is still available to listen to.

Visit our archives page to check out these episodes!


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