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Osakis couple honored for leadership

Levi and Darla Dunn of Osakis were recently named Agassiz Ambassadors as part of a leadership program offered through the University of Minnesota Extension. (Contributed)

Levi and Darla Dunn of Osakis were recently named Agassiz Ambassadors for the Red River Valley Emerging Leadership Program at an awards banquet.

The Dunns are the first couple from Douglas County to be selected for this honor.

They will carry the title of Agassiz Ambassadors #58 for the coming year where they

will apply their leadership skills as they work with University of Minnesota Extension staff to develop and deliver the next program, which will start this November.

The Dunns own and operate an 80-cow dairy farm. They rent 250 acres on which they grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa, mainly for feed. Levi does all the milking and Darla does the feeding. Darla also works part time for Michael H. Collins Dental Clinic.

The Dunns were selected for the Ambassadors honor from among those who were participants from 16 counties that were in the most recent program.

Their selection was based on nominations from other program participants and interviews with

program alumni. The Dunns were observed as good role models for the program.

Interviewers noted that the couple was highly recommended by their peers. The interviewers added that the couple have a strong passion for the Emerging Leadership Program and for continuing to improve themselves.

Those who nominated them for this role said, "They are a great couple with the right tools

to make everyone feel involved and wanted. They are natural leaders who are thoughtful in

conversations and the questions they ask."

Classmates noted, "They were always willing to share their experiences and that they had good insights into various topics, often bringing examples of how to apply the lessons from the program."

One nominator commented, "They work together as a team and lead by example in their marriage relationship and through their farm partnership. They would be amazing role models for next year's class."

What do Darla and Levi have to say about being selected for this role? "We are so grateful to have been given this gift of opportunity to strengthen our leadership skills and also our relationship," the couple said. "The Emerging Leadership Program has been a great

experience. We have both been pushed out of our comfort zones, which has helped us to grow in our leadership throughout the four sessions of the program."

The Dunns added, "We are incredibly honored and humbled to be chosen as Ambassadors! We look forward to being part of making the program a memorable experience for the next class as we encourage them to take advantage of the opportunities for personal growth."

The sessions focus on personal leadership styles, communication, community leadership, rural issues, life balance, dealing with challenges, change and facilitating effective meetings.

"University of Minnesota Extension research shows one in 34 adults in rural counties must step up and serve in a leadership role, compared to one in 143 in metro areas," said Judy Horntvedt, one of the session instructors in a news release. "We are training leaders by helping participants gain competence, build connections and increase confidence to lead."

The program is financially supported by alumni of the program and by many community businesses throughout the region. Major partners include the NW Minnesota Foundation, the Red River Development Association and West Central Initiative.

The program carries on a tradition, started by the RRV Winter Shows in 1961, of recognizing

rural leaders for contributions to their communities.

The recognition, at a regional level once known as Valley King Agassiz, was replaced with the title of Agassiz Ambassadors in 1994.

More information about the program is available at " target="_blank">z.umn.edu/rrvlead/

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