RLND Class IX Graduates

A Graduation Gala Celebration of RLND Class IX and 20 Years of Rural Leadership Excellence

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On Friday, November 17, 2023, the Ramada Bismarck Hotel was filled with pride and celebration as Rural Leadership North Dakota (RLND) Class IX marked the culmination of their four-year journey with a spectacular Graduation Gala. The evening was not only a tribute to the achievements of the Class IX participants but also a commemoration of two decades of RLND's impactful presence in North Dakota.

The festivities commenced with a social hour, setting the stage for an evening of celebrations and generosity. Attendees showcased their support through spirited bidding on silent auction items and the purchase of tickets for a chance to win a mystery travel suitcase filled with Class IX's favorite travel essentials. The proceeds from these endeavors were directed towards the Rural Leadership ND Alumni Association, reinforcing a commitment to the rural communities in ND.

Katie Tyler, RLND Program Director, extended a warm welcome to the gathered guests and introduced the evening's proceedings. As the gala unfolded, Class IX presented a captivating video chronicling their transformative journey and the profound influence of the RLND Program on each participant. The class's motto, "Navigating change together with impact, through self-awareness and service to the community, and with a collective commitment to connection," resonated as a testament to their shared experience.

Lynette Flage, NDSU Extension Associate Director, honored the accomplishments of Class IX and urged them to continue making a positive impact in their communities and organizations. Each of the 13 Class IX members received a distinguished RLND plaque bearing the class motto from Cory McCaskey, Class V and RLND Council Chairperson and Barry Medd, past RLND Council Chairperson. Annika Plummer, RLNDAA President, conveyed heartfelt congratulations to Class IX participants and encouraged them to join the RLND Alumni Association, emphasizing the ongoing support and connections available through the association.

The prestigious Eagle Award was bestowed upon Cory McCaskey of Class V, recognizing his unwavering dedication to the RLND Program, RLNDAA Foundation, RLNDAA website, and his numerous leadership roles within RLNDAA over the years. Dr. Marie Hvidsten, Emeritus RLND Director, received the RLND Leader Award, presented by Cory McCaskey. The award acknowledged Dr. Hvidsten's exceptional leadership, with examples highlighted through the lens of the five Leadership Practices from the Leadership Challenge.Cory McCaskey, along with Scott Peterson and Scott Ressler, RLND Council Members, presented the RLND Champion Award to the CHS Foundation for their outstanding commitment and contributions to the RLND program, significantly impacting the development of the next generation of agricultural leaders.

The event concluded with exciting announcements of winners, including Denise Andress of Class X, who claimed the mystery Travel Suitcase. Four alumni – Erica Johnsrud (Class VII), Tom Jones (Class IX), Fayme Stringer-Henry (Class IX), and Kylee Merkel (Class IX) – demonstrated their historical RLND knowledge and emerged as the top scorers in the RLND Trivia Quiz.

The Graduation Gala raised an impressive sum of over $3,000 for RLNDAA, underscoring the generosity and commitment of the RLND community to foster leadership and excellence.