Meet Kortney Santilli - Class of 2023

Valerie Weber:  So, welcome to CLN!

Kortney Santilli:  Thank you.

VW:  Congratulations on being in this year’s class.

KS:  It’s been really fun. Yeah. Like I always said, I never wanted to leave college. I just wanted to be a forever student, and I am at a college now, for five years working at JCC. Being in CLN, it’s been great to be back in a classroom and learning and taking notes. It’s one of my favorite things in the whole world.

VW:  So you’re liking being at the seven-month point rather than we’re almost done?

KS: Yeah, I’ll be sad when it’s over. Every session’s been really like pivotal. I’ve had some really big takeaways that I’ve implemented immediately after, so it’s wonderful. 

VW:  So what’s the one thing that’s made the most impact?

KS:  Recently, it was Simone Sellstrom’s conflict resolution class. I learned about my conflict style, which was avoidant. There’s a place and a time for that, but I’ve been in a couple circumstances recently where I was like, I don’t want to avoid this actually, I want to confront it head-on and get it taken care of and move through it. And so, the literal next day after that session, having learned that about myself, I just went straight in head-on and addressed it and I’ve been better for it. So, it’s really cool.

VW:  Great, that’s wonderful! It’s always good to learn something that you can apply right away.

KS:  I can’t say it enough, it was a game changer, because it every day now pops into my head: am I avoiding this or is it a conflict that I can quickly resolve?

VW:  How did you end up in this year’s class? Did someone recommend it to you?

KS:  Yeah, my former boss, who has since left, she was the Director of Marketing and Communications —  Jody Perrin. She’s been involved in CLN for a long time and was really pushing for Karli Champ, who went through last year, and then pushed for me to go through this year. She is a huge believer in it, and I now know why! I’m very fortunate that she wanted to push me through and saw the value in that. Since Jody left, I’ve become the interim Director of Marketing and Communications, so CLN has been very helpful for this transition that I had no idea was coming! 

VW:  If you had a song that played when you walked into a room, what would you pick?

KS:  That’s kind of an impossible ask because there’s so many good ones! 

VW:  There are so many good ones. 

KS:  Yeah, like I have a bunch of favorite bands but I’m like are any of these songs me? The first one that comes top of mind, and I don’t know why, is “Meet Virginia” – sure, we’ll go with “Meet Virginia” by Train, for right now! But I’m going to think about that for my future self. What song do I want to play? 

VW: If you could choose anybody in the world, to be your mentor?

KS:  That’s another tough one. 

VW:  That’s a big one, too.

KS:   I feel like I have everyday mentors. I’m constantly learning from every single person that I’m interacting with day-to-day. So I don’t know that I would want it to be one person. I like learning that way from so many different perspectives. That’s one of my second skills. My first is communication, my second is input, and I’m always gathering information. So, I think truly every interaction there’s some sort of level of mentorship or something that I’m gaining from that. 

VW: Outside of CLN and JCC, who are you?

KS:  I am a huge mental health advocate. I try to bring that into my everyday work life and with all of my friends. I feel honestly proud that I touted how amazing counseling and therapy was so much that many of my friends during our friendship have found therapists and go to counseling. So, that’s a huge passion of mine. And, I do lots of research and learning, and I’m always looking for ways to improve my mental health and continue that practice.

So, what goes hand-in-hand with that is I practice a lot of yoga. I go to many fitness classes. I teach barre exercise classes at Lotus Healing Center.  It all marries together, you know? That’s how I stay happy and content in my life. And, I’ve really grown that network of other instructors and like-minded people. When I graduated from college, and I moved back home, I had spent a semester abroad in Italy. The reverse culture shock was really hard, and not being in college anymore. I danced classical ballet for like 15 years. So, it was just a huge transition period where I was missing dance, and I was missing travel, and that’s when I fell in love with yoga and started meeting all of my friends, and we’ve stayed great friends ever since. That group keeps getting bigger and bigger, and I love it. 

VW:  So, Introvert, extrovert, or ambivert?

KS:  It really depends on the situation, so probably ambivert. I always think I’m introverted until I start talking to somebody. Then they’re like, no, you’re really extroverted, so it’s very dependent. I think it’s also dependent on the personality types or styles in the room. Sometimes I will totally clam up and like this isn’t my space, these aren’t my people. But, other times, when, when they are my people, I’m an extravert.

VW: Which class was your favorite so far?

KS:  My favorite one was when we were at Long Point. We had Dee from Loud Performance, Bryce and Rachel from the Bemus Point Golf Course and Tap House, the woman that oversees our parks in Chautauqua County, and Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau. The reason I love that session the most is it inspired my love of the area we live in, again, and so hard. To learn about how many miles and miles and miles of trails we have, you know – equestrian, waterways, hiking paths, biking paths – it was so cool. And to hear Dee say like I’ve traveled all over, I’ve been all over, and this area is second to none in terms of everything that you have at your fingertips in your backyard. So, it really inspired me to get back out there. I love being in nature, I love hiking. I’ve been biking with my husband a little bit more – I’m a little unstable on my bike, so we stay on the road! But it has been fun to just explore and be a tourist in my own community. It really did it just spark that passion of love for everything that we have here. That was a big one for me. I was so excited to go home and tell my husband everything I learned. We went and golfed, right after that – I used to work at the Bemus Point Golf Course and I’ve never golfed there. So it just gave me this whole like list of things I wanted to go do immediately, then we started doing them.

VW:  That’s great. Yeah, so that leads the segway into: what would be the one thing that if people asked about Chautauqua County, you would be proudest of or recommend the most? 

KS:  I would send any and everybody to the Comedy Center, because it’s incredible. We’re so fortunate to have that in our community. It’s incredibly impressive and nobody should sleep on that. I love it there, I’ve been a million times, and I still keep finding things that I didn’t know were there, so that’s just quite an experience. All of all of the options that there are, endless options that cost no money. Just go walk outside. Go kayak. Whatever it is. Go wander. So yeah, I think that our green spaces. We have a big international population of students that come to JCC, and that’s what they love about it here and what, they were completely surprised by when they arrived, is how green it is, how immersed nature you are. You know, a lot of them grew up in cities and have never had the amount of grass and trees that we do, you know?

VW:  Thank you very much!

KS:  You’re so welcome!

President's Note - Fall 2023

WOW! What an incredible opportunity to be here with you all, inspired by your passion and commitments to our community and to yourselves. This year has been a learning experience that I’ll never forget as I have completely jumped out of my comfort zone into a leading role as President of the Board of Directors. Challenging yes, yet very rewarding. Do you feel complete joy about guiding folks to a better them? Resonating with Simon Sinek, an optimist who believes in a bright future and the ability of building it together, Simon says “The joy of leadership comes from seeing others achieve more than they thought they were capable of.”

I feel this completely. SO Proud of our volunteers who have jumped in because they have the passion to learn and be a better self, knowing we are here cheering them on every step of the way. Watching the light shine from their souls as they work through the task and see the results that they have created is so INSPIRING!

I reflect on my own experience as well when Donna Flinchbaugh’s phone call came in advising I had been recommended to be the President of the Board of Directors. My first internal thought was, there’s no way. I have never done this before and I found SO many reasons why it shouldn’t be me. I asked her to send me the details and I would get her an answer later that evening intending to say no. I pondered on it and finally told myself, YOU CAN DO IT! I connected with her later that evening and told her Yes. I have grown with all of you and we, together, have created leaps and bounds of accomplishments for the future of Chautauqua Leadership Network.

As Christine Caine states “Change can be scary. The world is spinning faster than ever with new technologies, new challenges, and new opportunities. But don’t let fear hold you back. Embrace the chaos, thrive in it, and remember: you’re the captain of your ship. Take the wheel firmly in your hands, set your sights on the horizon, and sail bravely into the uncharted waters of continuous personal development. Your team is counting on you to lead the way, to be the lighthouse in the storm. Invest in yourself—your skills, your knowledge, your growth—because the better you become, the higher everyone around you will rise. Let’s make today the first day of the rest of your incredible, ever-evolving leadership journey!”

We have a couple immediate volunteer opportunities available:

– Co-Treasurer for the Board of Directors

– Marketing Chair

If interested in either of these, please let me know or let another CLN’er know and we will get you acclimated and ready to roll. We are here for you.

Applications for the Next Best Class Ever open October 1st with a 27 person list requesting to be contacted! We can host 30 – if you know someone who would be interested, please let them know they can apply on our website First come first serve basis.

Looking forward to seeing you all soon.

– Cynde Johnson

In Pictures - CLN 30 Year Celebration

August 24, 2023. Memorial Park, Dunkirk.
Sponsor of Dunkirk’s Summer on the Lake Concert Series.

Sponsored by: Bard Schaak, Eventz by Scott, and William Burley-Century 21 Brokers.

Pictures: Brian LeBarron – LeBarron Studios, Cynde Johnson – Cynde B Photography, Scott Mekus

In Pictures - 2023 Southern Tier Leadership Summit

August 3, 2023. St. Bonaventure Univeristy.

Hosted by Leadership Cattaraugus, Leadership Allegany, Chautauqua Leadership Network

Sponsored by: St. Bonaventure University, Cattaraugus County Industrial Development Agency, Fitzpatrick & Weller, Cutco, Jodi Fuller – Leadership Cattaraugus, Cynde B Photography, LeBarron Studios.

CLN Celebrates 30 Years of Growing Leaders - Join Us!

Thursday, August 24, 2023.
Memorial Park. Lake Shore Dr. West. Dunkirk, NY.


Chautauqua Leadership Network is EXCITED to Celebrate 30 Years of Growing Leaders in Chautauqua County.

We invite all our alumni, members, family and friends to join us in celebration during Dunkirk’s Summer on the Lake Concert Series. Our Concert is 80’s Night with 1980 Something/E5C4P3 – The Journey Tribute.

Free for all ages — Food, Beverage, Fun

Opening Act 5:25pm
Headliner 6:45pm

Special THANKS to supporting sponsors:
Bard Schaack
Eventz By Scott
William Burley – Century 21 Brokers


Join the social fun on Facebook:

Registration now open for Aug. 3 Southern Tier Leadership Summit

Kirk Young, vice president of Student Affairs at Jamestown Community College, will be the keynote speaker at the 2023 Southern Tier Leadership Summit on Thursday, Aug. 3, at St. Bonaventure University.

The summit is sponsored by Leadership Cattaraugus, Leadership Allegany and Chautauqua Leadership Network.

This year’s summit begins with registration from 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in the University Conference Center in Doyle Hall and concludes at 2:30 p.m. The 2023 theme is “Creating an Engaged and Dynamic Team.” In addition to the keynote, the conference will feature networking activities, a panel discussion, breakout sessions and a catered lunch.

The cost is $60 for current cohorts and alumni of LC, LA and CLN and $70 for the public. Online registration is open at (online service fee applies)

Young has served as vice president of Student Affairs at JCC since 2014. Before joining JCC, he worked for 10 years at Utah Valley University. Throughout his years in higher education, he has worked in enrollment, fundraising, and marketing, as well as serving for several years as the director of the Center for the Advancement of Leadership at UVU. Prior to his career in higher education, Young worked in sales and management in private industry where much of his work focused on employee development and engagement.

Young holds a BA in psychology from Utah Valley University, an MS in sociology from Brigham Young University, and a Ph.D. in leadership studies from Gonzaga University. His master’s studies focused on the social impacts of large-scale mega events, particularly the 2002 Winter Olympics. His doctoral studies focused on the 360-degree assessment as a leadership development tool. His other areas of expertise include transformational leadership, appreciative inquiry, servant-leadership, leadership and creativity, and strengths-based leadership.

Young is a certified strengths coach with the Gallup organization and spends some of his time consulting with individuals and teams on strengths-based performance and leadership solutions.
He is the founder of 221b Performance Solutions, a leadership and organizational development firm that works closely with organizations to assess performance, design solutions, and implement strategies for addressing a variety of challenges. In this capacity, Young helps individuals, teams and organizations identify and achieve their potential.

Young lives in Lakewood with his wife, Katie, and their three children.

Give Back & Grow. Key Volunteers Needed.

Did you know CLN is a volunteer run organization?

The Board of Directors? Volunteers.

Executive team? Volunteers

Committees? Volunteers and more volunteers.

Everyone volunteers for various reasons but with the common goal of growing future leaders.

Currently, CLN needs professionals like YOU in the following key roles by August 1:

Chair, Branding & Marketing Committee: Creative leadership and organizational skills reign here. As committee chair you will lead and learn from a team of marketing and business development professionals from throughout the county. Fun and rewarding projects will let you be creative as you deliver results and the CLN mission across the county. The chair coordinates activities while volunteers help generate the content. Bonus – CLN has its own modern marketing tech stack and vendor relations to tackle any campaign.

Co-Treasurer, Board of Directors The CLN Board of Directors relies on accurate and professional financial reporting to make decisions. As co-treasurer you’ll work closely with the CLN coordinator, executive team and Financial Sustainability Committee. QuickBooks experience required.

Make an impact! If either of these appeal to you, or you have questions, please reach out to Katie Young at [email protected] for more information.

President's Note - Summer 2023

Time flies when you’re having fun!  So much has happened since the Class of 2023 welcome retreat and so much is also happening behind the scenes.

We just wrapped up our membership drive – a big thank you to those who stay current & connected. The membership portal is live on our website and if you renewed your membership, you can log in and complete your personal profile. It’s quick, easy & impactful!

Thank You to Katie Castro & Brian Rovegno for their volunteerism & for leading a successful GiveBIG CHQ.

So many great events are planned this summer. I encourage you to attend the Leadership Summit at St. Bonaventure University on August 3 in collaboration with Leadership Cattaraugus and Leadership Allegany. I also invite you, your family, and loved ones to join us in Dunkirk for CLN’s 30 Year celebration on August 24. More info on both of these events can be found in the News & Events section at

I look forward to growing with you this year and I encourage you to continue to inspire others to grow with us and lead the future.

YOU are leadership 💚 💚


Cynde Johnson

Chautauqua Leadership Network [CLN]  President 2023-2025


Meet Zulma Johnson - Class of 2023

Each newsletter we like to provide an introduction to one of the current year’s class members. In this issue, Valerie Weber (Class of 2020) interviews Zulma Johnson, Accounting and Business Services Associate at Chautauqua Works.

Valerie Weber:  So congrats, you’re in the class of ‘23!

Zulma Johnson:  Yes, yes.

VW:  So, how have you been liking it so far?

ZJ:  I’ve been liking it. It can be challenging at times but it’s been enjoyable. It’s been a discovery for me, I guess you could say. I’m learning new things like last week’s session, I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed asset discovery, and now we’re doing our project for that. I’m learning more about myself. I’m learning more about the community, doing a lot of networking, that’s for sure.

VW: I think people are surprised because they think it’s going to be all leadership, but there’s a whole lot more networking to it than you expect. And I found out I actually did more networking after I made it through my year than I did during the year that I was in the class (of course, it was a weird year for us – we were 2020, so everything was virtual).

Has anything surprised you so far?

ZJ: What really surprised me was the CliftonStrengths – it was dead on, and that really shocked me. Empathy was one of them. I’m an achiever. I didn’t have any leadership qualities when I took that, and I really agreed with it because I’m more of a person that gives and listens. I’m in HR so that didn’t surprise me, but it shocked me because that test was just so right.

VW:  That’s good! What’s been your favorite part?

ZJ:  The networking part, I would say that’s my favorite. I like meeting people, the classmates, you get to really know them one-on-one and you look forward to seeing them, making friends with them on Facebook, finding out about their families and stuff, you know. Like today, I posted my daughter’s birthday and, you know, they’re saying, happy birthday to her, posting happy birthday to her, so that’s nice.

One of the things I really enjoyed was the teams doing things together. That’s one of the things I really enjoyed, the team bonding.

VW:  Yeah. So how does this year’s project work? I know it was different from other years.

ZJ:  It’s asset discovery this year, which is something I really enjoy. We chose an organization here, the Chautauqua Center, what it is to the community and what it does for the community. I think we chose a good one – it’s growing, and it offers so much.

VW:  Good. Our project was that we had to come up with a plan to solve one problem or to help alleviate that issue in the county.  It was really interesting, I think. The group that did theirs on poverty was really good and did some thought-provoking things. They had us use an app to take a test to see how you would survive on a poverty-level budget. It would say: “Your kid needs this for a field trip. Do you choose to get groceries this week or put gas in your car or send the kid on the field trip? So it was really thought-provoking and interesting.

ZJ:  Sounds like mine’s easier!

VW:  Yes! But we learned so much, and working with each group was great. We ended up doing a video for ours about transportation issues, the lack of public transportation, and how to possibly help fix the areas where there are gaps. So it was a really fun project, but it was the first time they’d done one with an actual issue. They were always theoretical before our year. And then I think they’ve done something different every year since.  So yours, the discovery, I think it’s good they’re trying new things every year. I think the group that’s been doing the the classes and such is really done a great job.

Give Big CHQ Is Here!

June 8, 2023. Giving Page: 

The impact that CLN has in our community is an impact that is felt throughout all industries. 

When a leader gets better in Chautauqua County, we all get better…

Our businesses, our schools, our nonprofits, our government – all of it thrives through healthy, wise, and connected leadership. 

So, an investment in Chautauqua Leadership Network is an investment in the future of our community. 

And that’s worth giving to. 

Here’s the game plan for June 8: 

  1. Matching hours, sponsored by local businesses Ally Co and Cynde B Photography between 9am-11am and 3-5pm.
  2. A meetup at 1pm at Crown Street Roasting Company in downtown Jamestown for any and all friends of CLN who want to celebrate our 30-legacy in this community and where we’re headed next together. If you’re able to make it, your cup of coffee is on us!
  3. Facebook lives all day long with giving updates + shenanigans, hosted by alumni member Brian Rovegno and board member Katie Castro.
  4. Community Foundation-sponsored incentives all day long to make your dollars stretch even further, including: 
    A. 12am-7am: Rise & Shine Bonus Incentive. Nonprofits receiving a donation are entered into a chance for a $100 bonus award. 
    B. 7:16am-7:16pm: 716 Stretch Pool. A donation during this timeframe helps qualify nonprofits for a portion of the $30,000 stretch pool. 
    C. 2pm-3pm: Double up! Donation match. All donations will be matched up to $20 or until the $2,000 match pool is gone. 
    D. 9pm-10pm: Night Owl Bonus Incentive. Nonprofits receiving a donation are entered into a chance for a $100 bonus award!  

The skinny version of that: 

Stay tuned to our socials
Give when there’s incentive though our personalized giving campaign page: 

Join us at Crown Street @ 1pm. 

Ready, set, go….