The Character Movement

Top Five Moments from Our 2016 Ethical Leadership Luncheon

For eight years, Youth Frontiers has hosted its Ethical Leadership Luncheon, an event with Minnesota’s brightest leaders on fostering character in our communities today and building the next generation of ethical leaders. We had a wonderful time last Friday swapping inspiring stories and experienced insights over a shared meal at the Marriott City Center in Minneapolis. We’ve rounded up our top five favorite moments to remind all who attended and those who couldn’t make it of what it’s like to be in character-filled community as we approach the holidays.

1. Barb Hilbert, CFO of Luther Automotive Group, warmed the crowd by sharing how each of us can make a Youth Frontiers-kind-of-difference in someone’s life.


“What can we do to make [Youth Frontiers’ mission] real in our own lives? My personal mantra has become “Pick One.” Pick one kid who needs a lifeline, a kid who needs to know they matter and that there is someone willing to stand up for them. Pick one kid who has no idea what it’s like to be treated with respect and dignity and show them that they are worthy of it… Imagine the exponential power in that. Your investment of time can change their world – and I speak from personal experience here, I promise you it will change yours.”

2. Joe Cavanaugh, Founder and CEO of Youth Frontiers, shared from YF’s heart.


“We focus on creating a culture of character because it is the right thing to do and because the young people we work with are tomorrow’s leaders, community members, our neighbors and our kids’ future spouses and friends. We show kids how to not be enemies because school hallways are the training ground for a civil society, and we cannot have a civil community if we see others as the enemy. Civility is not about giving up our own value systems but about broadening our perspective, being curious and listening, really listening – not smugly waiting to launch into our truth.

My challenge to all of us is to begin the hard work of healing our community and do the hard work of seeing each other – especially those with whom we disagree – more completely. Maybe, just maybe, the people we disagree with are not completely wrong; perhaps they simply see something that we do not see.” 

3. Abdul Sesay, Youth Frontiers Musician, performed his original song, “Truth of My Heart.”

Abdul first experienced Youth Frontiers when he attended a Kindness Retreat with his fourth-grade class. That year, he also received our Kindness Award. “From that moment, it was just like I had a little spark in me; I felt seen,” Abdul said. This year, he completed our apprenticeship program before joining our team full-time as a Retreat Musician.

4. We announced our 2016 Character Award Winner, Samantha HoangLong, and presented her with a $5,000 scholarship funded by Luther Automotive Group.


Samantha’s English teacher at Burnsville High School, Katie Burke, nominated Samantha for our Character Award because of her kind heart, active volunteerism and community leadership. 

5. Marcia Page, Founding Partner and Executive Chair of Värde Partners, encouraged us to expand and strengthen our “neighborhoods.”


“To me, mature and ethical leadership is about allowing surprises and opportunities to disrupt what we know and believe, triggering a cycle that expands our thinking. Then we have to have the courage to do something about it. [That’s how we make our] neighborhoods bigger, stronger and more inclusive and, in my view, more innovative and resilient.”

Thank you to everyone who attended the Ethical Leadership Luncheon. We send special thanks to our 67 sponsors. Your gracious support will directly fund our work with nearly 17,000 students this year. We are so grateful for your partnership in impacting these lives.

Photo and video credit (from top to bottom): Jessica LarsonJessica LarsonJessica LarsonJessica Larson, Adam Iverson PhotographyJessica Larson.

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