A new Eastside program being launched today aims to train the next generation of community leaders and unite Eastside cities in solving...

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A new Eastside program being launched today aims to train the next generation of community leaders and unite Eastside cities in solving regional problems.

Leadership Eastside will offer participants a yearlong curriculum focused on issues facing the Eastside. The leaders-in-training will learn how to make community connections, influence regional decisions and act on behalf of the community good.

The new program was formed after two older organizations, Advance Bellevue and the Redmond-based Leadership Institute, dissolved last year to make way for the new concept. Leadership Eastside shares similar goals, but is meant to help participants approach Eastside issues in a more regional way, rather than on a city-by-city basis.

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The idea for the program came after business and social leaders realized that the Eastside was beginning to develop a stronger regional identity, said board member Annalee Luhman, the learning and leadership manager at the Port of Seattle and vice chairwoman for programs and curriculum at Leadership Eastside.

“There was a sense that we needed regional solutions,” she said.

The program will accept 40 to 50 participants, who must apply and be accepted. Tuition is $2,400, though individuals are expected to pay only 10 percent of it on their own. The rest will be paid for by corporate sponsors, and scholarships are available. Applications will be accepted starting tomorrow, and information will be available then at www.leadershipeastside.com.

The program was founded by nearly two dozen local businesses, cities and organizations, including The Seattle Times. It is overseen by a board of trustees, though staff will be hired this summer before the first session starts.

Starting this fall, participants will begin by attending a forum about major issues facing the Eastside. Then, one to three issues will be chosen as a focus, and participants will develop team projects to address them. They’ll meet once a month for a year to work on the projects and listen to guest speakers. Board members will serve as mentors.

The mentorships will continue for an additional two years.

“We don’t just want to give them a program,” said board chairman Steve Brown, CEO of Evergreen Healthcare. “We are going to help people figure out what to do about these problems.”

After the program is over, participants are expected to have developed the skills necessary to help them continue their community leadership, perhaps by starting up other projects or organizations, said Luhman.

Luhman participated in Advance Bellevue and says her project consisted of a campaign to place information stickers on Bellevue trash and recycling receptacles. The stickers, still used, tell residents what type of trash is and isn’t allowed in each receptacle, encouraging recycling.

Besides developing the next generation of community leaders, the program could benefit the Eastside politically by teaching people how to think more regionally and by helping cities attract financing and wield more clout, board members say.

“Eastside communities are starting to think more collaboratively,” said Brown. “And collaboration is better than competition.”

Natalie Singer: 206-464-2704 or nsinger@seattletimes.com