HADLEY, Mass. (AP) — Andrea Bordenca was at a crossroads in 1999. The 43-year-old was struggling with substance abuse, bipolar disorder and social anxiety, all while running DESCO Service, a business that specializes in emergency response field service.
Feeling the relationship with her family being strained, she enrolled in a three-year-long program at the Institute for Generative Leadership, which offers professional development and personal growth programs for professional adults.
The Belchertown resident, now chief executive officer of the organization that taught her how to better handle her mental health concerns and substance misuse, will soon be launching the institute’s U.S. headquarters in Western Massachusetts. Bordenca said she aims to help youth and adults in the Pioneer Valley and beyond fight the same issues she faced two decades ago.
“For me, it’s all about leadership and resilience,” Bordenca said. “This is our starting off point.”
Construction started in late December on the $1.5 million space, called the Venture Way Collaborative Building in Hadley. The site, which will have four full-time employees, will house both IGL and DESCO.
The collaborative will also house Lead Yourself Youth, an initiative Bordenca created that adapts IGL’s curriculum for schools and youth, as well as Somasynthesis Studios, an organization that works with adults and adolescents and educators on “nervous-system education.”
Once finished, the Venture Way Collaborative will aim to provide “a training ground for area leaders and high school and college students,” according to a press release from Bordenca.
Bordenca is also the co-founder of Belchertown Women’s Collaborative, which will host meetings in the Hadley space. The collaborative is a group of Pioneer Valley women that meets regularly to discuss challenges, goals and achievements.
Gina Fasser, who co-founded the women’s collaborative with Bordenca, said she is looking forward to having another space for the group to hold its meetings and workshops.
The women in the collaborative, who meet twice a month, frequently hold their events at The Nest, a location operated by the Belchertown’s Speaking Out About Addiction & Recovery group. The collaborative has held workshops focused on physical and emotional healing as well as personal growth, according to Fasser.
“We’ve seen a lot,” she said. “We’ve come together for all of life’s challenges.”
The 4,000-square-foot building in Hadley will open in May, depending on weather conditions. The group’s first program will be a three-day workshop scheduled for late October, Bordenca said.
Bordenca said she would like to build another workshop and classroom in the building and has plans to add 4,000 more square feet to the site in the coming years. There are no immediate plans to build another facility at the moment, though, according to her.
She said she also hopes to collaborate with neighboring schools in the Five College community as well, along with community colleges, including Springfield Technical Community College.
The Venture Way Collaborative will have a 1,000-square-foot classroom dedicated to “body-based” learning, where students will practice personal and professional encounters. It will also have a 750-square-foot workshop full of electronic and mechanical devices, including a sterilizer, medical grade washer, electrocardiograms, monitors and defibrillators, that middle school, high school and college age students will be able to learn how to use.
Bordenca said she hopes to provide a “hands-on space” that “engages more diversity" in STEM, a male-dominated field, she said.
“That’s the vision,” Bordenca said.
IGL US launched in the 1990s and has worked remotely across the U.S. since its start, holding workshops in rented spaces around the country. IGL has global affiliates throughout Asia and recently launched in Latin America.
The idea to create a collaborative space came only a few years ago, according to Bordenca.
“It just came as a thought three years ago,” said Bordenca, who started looking for land for a potential development site in 2017. “It happened pretty quickly from there.
IGL’s year-long program costs close to $10,000 and includes a personal coach as well as a curriculum centered on engaging in more effective conversations and improving emotional understanding. The institute also has a $3,500 17-week program, and live events that cost around $25, according to Bordenca.
The company frequently holds free community events as well, Bordenca said. Through contributions from businesses, the CEO said she hopes to subsidize the cost of IGL’s program for lower-income individuals.
“It’s remarkable the skills and mindset she’s teaching,” said Jessica Verrochi, who is currently enrolled in the institute’s 17-week course.
The Belchertown resident met Bordenca through the women’s collaborative. She was inspired by Bordenca’s transformation, decided to participate in IGL’s three-day conference and enrolled in the institute’s 17-week leadership program in September.
“The things that I was learning from Andrea over the course of two years was really quite impactful,” said Verrochi. “I wanted to know what she knew.”
Verrochi, who works in a supervisory role at Baystate Reference Laboratories in Northampton, said IGL’s program has taught her important life skills, including how to build confidence, develop leadership techniques and handle conflict effectively.
She and Bordenca both said the program’s lessons are needed in U.S. schools.
“There is an increase in depression and anxiety among younger populations,” Bordenca said in her press release. “They sometimes find that anxiety and depression mount and lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Most don’t have the skills to navigate stress and pressure because it is not yet built into our public schools’ curriculum.”
Bordenca herself was turning to alcohol and cigarettes at age 24 as a way to cope with her growing responsibilities as an adult. “It took me several years to admit I was an alcoholic,” she said.
The business leader had just come into a managerial role at DESCO at the time and was struggling. Her father was sick, and she found she was isolating herself from her husband and sons. It was not until Bordenca enrolled in IGL’s program that she was able to successfully deal with her problems.
“I have seen Andrea come through personal challenges, with her own self, with her own being," Gina Fasser said of her partner at the women’s collaborative. “She’s a powerhouse.”