WEIRTON — A seven-month journey came to an end Sunday as the 11 members of the Leadership Ohio Valley Class of 2019 celebrated their lessons, accomplishments and new friendships.

A graduation luncheon, hosted by the Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce, which organizes Leadership Ohio Valley, was held at Williams Golf and Country Club, with class members surrounded by friends, family and coworkers.

“I want to be the first one to say congratulations,” Chamber President Brenda Mull said. “You made it.”

Noting the class has worked diligently throughout the program, displaying creativity and originality, Mull expressed her hope to see them continue taking steps forward into leadership roles.

“We don’t want your experience to come to an end today,” Mull said, encouraging the class to remain active in their communities and continue with the relationships they have built.

Previously known as Leadership Weirton, the program provides a series of monthly sessions, each one planned by members of the class, to provide an introduction to aspects of local communities and encourage involvement.

Sessions focus on areas of government, health and human services, education, history and culture, and business and economic development.

The class also participated in a “simulated society” exercise, a personality quiz known as True Colors and a team-building event at Escapeworks in Weirton. They currently are working to complete a group community project.

Guest speaker Anthony Mougianis, president and CEO of Apollo Pro-Cleaning and Restoration, encouraged the class to look within no matter what role they take on, discussing the importance of respect, love and kindness toward others.

“Love is synonomous with leadership,” he said, explaining many of the great leaders of the world base their philosophies on love.

He told them it is more important to remember why they do things than what they do, to care about each other and to support each other.

“You’re all together in this thing. The key to success is doing it together,” Mougianis said. “We are much stronger as ‘we’ than we are as ‘I.’”

Class coordinator Joyia Lytle also encouraged the class to continue working for others and their communities, noting her own time as a Leadership participant had been life changing.

“Don’t let this be the end of your Leadership adventure,” she said.

Graduates of this year’s Leadership Ohio Valley class, and their sponsors include: Anthony Bernardi, Greco-Hertnick Funeral Home; Tom Bowman, Weirton Heights Rotary; Staci Breen, WMC Physician Practices; Deidra Edwards, Hancock County Savings Bank; Kerri Freshwater, Weirton Geriatric Center; Joe Lombardi, Lombardi Development; Missy Mikula, Howard Hanna; Stephanie O’Brien, Weirton Area Chamber of Commerce; DeeAnn Pulliam, City of Weirton; Kaylee Richter, Hancock County Savings Bank; and Alexis Russell, Follansbee Chamber of Commerce.