Chamber celebrates Leadership Academy graduates

ELKHART — Jon McKeever, assurance manager at RSM US LLP, wanted to be more involved his community. He had been in Elkhart for six years and wanted to learn more about organizations in the community.

He talked with his partners at work about the possible ways he could get involved.

“I thought I was going to get involved in a board or something like that,” McKeever said. “They actually suggested the Leadership Academy with the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce.”

Elkhart Leadership Academy celebrated its 36th graduating class Wednesday in the Crystal Ballroom at the Lerner Theatre. The program engages participants to strengthen themselves, their organizations, families, and communities through service and leadership.

The 10-month program combines key community issues and enhanced leadership skill development to advance community stewardship, the chamber says. Presentations, hands-on experiences, exclusive tours, personality assessments and work on nonprofit projects are a part of the program.

McKeever applied for the program last summer and was accepted. After nine months of going through the program, he delivered one of the class reflections at the graduation, talking about not knowing what to expect when he first joined.

“I thought maybe we would go around Elkhart County and visit a couple of organizations, meet some people, and I thought that was about it,” McKeever said in his speech. “Little did I know that it would be so much more than that.”

The nonprofit organizations that the Leadership Academy supported this year were Guidance Ministries, Regality, Stable Grounds and Walnut Hill Early Childhood Center.

McKeever is one of 27 graduates from this year’s class. According to Chamber President and CEO Levon Johnson, they will join 791 alumni in leading their community.

“Some of them are in the beginning parts of their leadership journey, and others are in the middle and this is another opportunity for them to grow,” Johnson said. “It’s really been impactful as we think about the connections that are made, but also the skillsets that show up.”

Applications for the 2024-25 Elkhart Leadership Academy are being accepted. The application is accessible at