NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Monday May 21st 2018

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Memories of Leon: Being with Leon, you are the focus

by Jonathan Miller
Without Leon Oman I would probably be unemployed right now. No, Leon didn’t personally give me a job, but the strong impression he left on me during my internship with The Alley Newspaper did steer me away from the career path I was on–Magazine journalism. We all know how swimmingly that industry is fairing right now and in part because of Leon, I realized that believing in what I do is very important to me and I moved into non-profit communications.

Leon was my mentor and advisor during my first internship with The Alley Newspaper way back in 1999. The focus of the project was to get children and teenagers involved in the paper, so Leon was the natural choice for two reasons: 1. He worked at Andersen School. 2. He knows EVERYONE in Phillips and EVERYONE knows him and respects him. Leon was always able to make time to provide guidance or give me background on the complex dynamics of the Phillips Community even though he was constantly being pulled in different directions.
But the advantages that Leon provided were more than just his connections. When you talk to Leon, he has a real knack for connecting with you. He has a real talent for taking young people under his wing and mentoring. It feels like you are the focus of all his attention, but then you look around and realize that he has a similar mentoring relationship with 20 other students and volunteers at the same time. And that was just during one summer. Imagine the hundreds of people that Leon has had this affect on during his career. Amazing when you think about it!

If you know Leon you know that he would never be so heavy handed as to say something like, “Jonathan, after you might want to consider a career in the non profit world.” Leon’s approach is gently probing questions, a genuine interest in you and leading by example. And it was Leon’s example of mentoring and giving students the tools to succeed on their own that made me think, “Yeah, I want to do that.” So here I am, ten years later, mentoring students and hoping to have somewhere close to the impact on them that Leon had on me.
Jonathan Miller, is the Minnesota State Colleges Student Association Director of Communications and Graphic Designer for The Alley Newspaper

What a decent human being looks like
by Donna Pususta Neste
Leon is a gentle, quiet and hardworking man. He is the kind of leader who leads by doing, not telling. Anyone would love to have him for a boss and any youth would be lucky to have him as a mentor and example of what a decent human being looks like.
There are probably many thankful for the major part he played in their lives when they were children growing up in the inner city of Minneapolis.

When the kids in my program were doing a project of interviewing community leaders in Youth Civic Engagement, one of the questions they asked Leon was, “What is the hardest part of your job?” Leon didn’t hesitate in saying that the hardest part was giving kids consequences for bad behavior.

It was wonderful to work with Leon. He was always quick with the complement, but in all the years I have been associated with him in many youth agency networks, like the Youth Civic Engagement Project and South Area Network Partnership (SNAP), I have never heard him criticize a colleague. We will all miss him and wish him the best
of luck in the many retirement years ahead of him.

Donna Pususta Neste is Coordinator of Mount Olive Neighborhood Ministries

“…Always at the ready…”
Dear Leon,
You’ve been such a wonderful addition to our Phillips Midtown community always at the ready to connect partners and to involve the school in our community’s life. Thank you so very much for your many years of service. You will be deeply missed by all.
Best to you always,
Kathee Foran and all the gang at In the Heart of the Beast Theatre

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