The Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Williston program class of 2020 got together on Jan 20 to share the projects they’ve created throughout the program.

Meeting virtually, participants shared the details of their programs and initiatives with their fellow graduates and employers. Leadership Williston featured several community projects for 2020, with some having already been implemented, like last fall’s Boom Crawl and the city-wide Yarn Bomb project which has created colorful yarn displays throughout the city. Chamber President Rachel Lordemann said despite 2020’s complications, the Leadership Williston class pressed forward and found success, even as the class went completely digital.

“We are so proud of the 2020 Leadership Williston graduates,” Lordemann told the Williston Herald. “Not only did each of them display great adaptability as the program fluctuated and eventually went virtual, but every participant either completed a community enhancement project, or made concrete steps in planning a community enhancement project that can be completed when it is safe. That is a great accomplishment in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

2020’s Leadership Williston projects include:

Off to the Races — Spring Squires

Squires project proposes the creation of a Pine Wood Derby. Squires stated that the 6th Graders of District 1’s Coyote Academy would be designing, creating and building the cars, with kits provided by local sponsors.

“My hope is that this project will teach students that there can be enjoyment in learning, trying, failing, and retrying,” Squires said. “It would also bring an element of fun into engineering, which is ofttimes considered a boring field of study. Each student will be able to hone existing skills and develop new skills in a multitude of areas.”

Due to COVID, the project was not able to be completed, but hopes are that the Derby can be help in the near future.

Rickard Lighting Project — Pace Bates Bates project provided Rickard Elementary School with additional outdoor lighting for the main entrances on the west side of building, as well as supplemental lighting for the playground areas on the north and east sides of the building.

Augmented Reality — Deanna Buckles

Buckles project would create an augmented reality app to give users a virtual tour of historically significant points of interest within the community. Buckles plan would begin with the James Memorial Art Center, sharing historical facts, photos and more about the century-old building at its significance to the community. Buckles project would eventually encompass other locations around the area.

Let’s Enjoy Together — Kathy Casto Casto’s project would develop community events and activities for children with special needs and their families.

“There are some activities that families with kids with special needs do not often participate in together because the families find them difficult,” Casto explained. “One of those activities is going to the movies. I would like to create an environment that is comfortable for these families to be able to enjoy participating in together.”

The project would work with the theater to create special showings for these families. During these shows the lights would be turned up and the sounds turned down, creating a more comfortable environment for children who have sensory issues.

Again, due to COVID, the project was unable to be completed as planned, but Casto said she will be working to make it a reality in some form.

Mock Interview — Brittany Kilgore

Kilgore’s project aimed to give students confidence and help to prepare them for obtaining jobs during and after high school by assisting in writing a cover letter and resume, as well as help give them confidence during the interview itself. The plan was to hold a career fair for Juniors and Seniors, giving them a chance to fill out actual applications, create cover letters and participate in mock interviews.

Students were them provided a mock interview rubric sheet, scoring them on resume/cover letter/job application, appearance and poise, skill presentation, delivery and language and overall demonstration of interview skills. Due to COVID, only one round of interviews were able to take place in Watford City, but Kilgore said the event was successful. The project is currently on pause until Williston High School is able to participate.

Seniors Entertainment — Charnelle Imsland Imsland’s project would bring free entertainment to Williston’s senior population, who Imsland said are lacking in senior-friendly events and activities. One of the main issues, she said, was that many seniors require a mobility device, and therefore have difficulty getting out and about. Imsland worked with Entertainment Inc! and NW Dakota Public Transit Center to provide 30 seniors with tickets and transportation to Inc! productions in 2020.

Yarn Bombing — Ashley Oyloe

Oyloe’s project has been on full display for nearly a year, covering trees, benches and more with colorful yarn displays, created by local volunteers. Oyloe said the purpose of her project was to create vibrant, eye-catching attractions to highlight different parts of the city. Trees and benches along Spring Lake Park, the CVB visitor’s center and Williston Community Library are among the 21 installations created in 2020.

E-Sports Competition/Camp — Riley Yadon Yadon said that research shows nearly 87% of high school seniors in 2019 identified as a gamer, and his project would facilitate the creation of an E-Sports competition or camp at Williston State College. Yadon worked with a committee of students at the college to determine platforms and games for the competition, with an event planned for April 2020. COVID once again put a halt to the plans, but Yadon said that since the work had been completed, WSC was able to purchase 12 computer systems for their E-sports Club, with the intention that the E-Sports program would begin its inaugural season in August 2021. He added construction of the E-Sports room should begin in July, unless changes are requested by the new College President being appointed in July 2021.

Boom Crawl — Rochelle Villa

Villa created the Boom Crawl as an event to help engage the younger residents who enjoy Williston’s nightlife. The Boom Crawl took place in August 2020, with 11 businesses taking part by offering food and drink specials for those taking part. Villa said the event was very well received, with all 200 tickets selling out. Villa hopes to continue the event for 2021 and into the future.

Looking ahead, the Chamber of Commerce is preparing to hold interviews for Leadership Williston’s 2021 class.

“The Chamber’s Membership and Engagement Manager, Rochelle Villa, who is now a 2020 Program Graduate, will be taking the reins for the upcoming Leadership Williston Session, beginning on Feb. 17,” Lordemann explained. “We have made some adjustments to safely continue the program – including additional virtual options, and limiting the number of participants, among others. We have received a great slate of applicants and we’re excited to announce the emerging leaders who will be selected to join the program in the coming weeks.”

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