NY-PENN Leadership Program officials celebrated the program's 14th group of graduates during a Wednesday commencement ceremony.

This year's graduating class consisted of 12 Valley-area business leaders, community officials and four high school students sponsored by the Valley Economic Development Association. The class was a diverse and "wonderful" group, said program facilitator Amy Brennan.

Brennan, who facilitated the program for the first time this year, said the classes were "excellent" and looks forward to leading the class of 2014 next year.

Program participants met twice a month beginning in September to learn leadership skills. Session topics included economic development and planning, government, arts and culture, public safety and volunteerism, according to the program schedule.

The program aims to prepare its participants to serve as well-informed and active civic trustees, according to information from the program.

Guest speakers this year included Athens Township secretary Robin Smith, Athens Area School District superintendent Diane Place, state Rep. Tina Pickett, Tioga County, N.Y. sheriff Gary Howard, former Nichols, N.Y. mayor Lee Ann Tinney and representatives of Chesapeake Energy, Brennan said.

Speakers at Wednesday's ceremony included Cathy Pientka of First Citizens Community Bank, a 2003 alumna of the program, as well as Howard.

The program's advisory board is currently seeking applicants for the class of 2014, Brennan said. Those interested in participating must fill out an application highlighting their education, work experience, personal achievements and community activities.

For an application or for more information, call (570) 882-9324 or visit www.nypennleadership.org.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.