Emerging Leaders Alliance: 5 Questions with Sonya Snellenberger

October 20th, 2016

Sonya started with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership in February 2014 as a project coordinator responsible for the Emerging Leaders Alliance (ELA) and developing the Strengths Network and the Regional Internship program. Sonya has taught speech at IPFW and volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters. She serves on the board of ARCH, a historic preservation nonprofit, and volunteers with Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana (YLNI).

As an emerging leader, who are you?
I am a balance between a wild child and book nerd. I am the balance between two things all the time. I can be very outgoing but also need time to watch Netflix at home. I am dedicated to my friends but I am also dedicated to doing what is right. I am not afraid to have my feet on the ground but jump at the same time. I want to show that balance to my peers and those that are younger than me; this is a way of life that you can do and be successful. You don’t have to just ladder climb. Sometimes part of climbing the ladder is maintaining a life along the way. I am this way because I am showing others a way. I am... Sonya.

What counties do or have you lived in here in Northeast Indiana?
I have only lived in Allen County. I have a lifetime of love and hate with Allen County. I was born in the country in northwest Ohio. I could go out in my backyard and not see anyone for miles. When I moved to Allen County as a kid, I wanted to grow up and leave. When I was 17, I worked at Dash-In and we closed at 4 p.m. because no one was downtown after that time. The West Central Neighborhood was starting to become cool but hanging out downtown meant you were hanging out at someone's house. It never meant there was something fun to do. I remember how exciting it was to have something like the first Buskerfest. I left town but what I found is that Allen County is home and now I get everything I need here including experiencing the country or the city element. This is the kind of city that people my age want to live in. It is not Chicago but it is vibrant enough that we can hang out downtown and enjoy it. Allen County is the embodiment of what many of us have been looking for.

What do you love about Northeast Indiana?
I love that Northeast Indiana is so big that you can find all the gems without going far from home. You can go to Mongo (I hadn’t been there and it is so cool!). You can go to Chain O'Lakes or the hot air balloon festival. You can enjoy the new Wabash Street and what it has to offer. Stuff like that is so cool to me because when you are from Indiana or the midwest, people assume it is nothing but cornfields and tumbleweeds. The truth is that if you seek out something to do here, you can find it. I love how humble people are in Northeast Indiana. You can go anywhere and make a friend. You can wave at anyone and they will wave back to you. People do that here and it is so ingrained in the people we are. You don’t know how amazing this is until you don’t have it. When I was in Spain, I would wave at people on the sidewalk and they stared at me like I was crazy. It is a different mentality.

What would you like to see in Northeast Indiana in the future?
I would like to see more people loving this region like my peers do in the ELA. That kind of pride is important. It was frustrating in my teens and early twenties because most people wanted to move away. If you wanted to stay, you were looked down upon. We have the opportunity to show people we are not just our state but we are proud of where we are from and we should share that pride.

What is something that you have done in Northeast Indiana that you never expected to do?
Move back. I could give you a long list of amazing things I’ve done since I moved back, but it really comes down to the fact that I made the choice to come back. At 19, I told myself I would never return but I did my thing and I came back. I didn’t think that would ever happen. I’ve lived here for the last 3 years after living in Miami, Baltimore. etc. I bought a house and made a commitment. I don’t have plans of leaving any time soon. I’m proud of where I am now and the conversation of having to escape here will never be part of how I talk about this region again.


by Stephen J. Bailey for the Emerging Leaders Alliance, a program of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership