Central Ohio Leadership Academy (COLA)

Final Application Deadline – May 31, 2024

Central Ohio Leadership Academy (COLA) is a tuition-free, high-impact leadership development experience designed for rising high school juniors and seniors throughout Central Ohio. The COLA experience is a life-changing one. Together with your cohort, you will develop YOUR unique leadership through collaboration, personal development, and cultivating purpose in order to make an impact in your schools and communities. We encourage curious and inspiring students of all backgrounds and diversity dimensions to apply!

Why choose the Central Ohio Leadership Academy?

If you are a rising high school junior or senior in Central Ohio and are…

  • Curious about developing your own personal leadership
  • Looking to make a positive impact in your school or community
  • Interested in developing your organizational and strategic leadership skills and purpose
  • Ready to build authenticity, trust, teamwork, and leadership competencies
  • Inspired to co-create a unique and life-changing experience with peers from all over Central Ohio
    … then COLA is for you!

COLA participants develop skills in the following competency areas:

  • Personal Leadership & Individual Strengths
  • Collaboration, Teamwork & Problem Solving
  • Communication, Values, and Identity
  • Community Impact & Civic Responsibility
  • Planning & Goal Setting
  • Create a new understanding of leadership
  • Increase self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and motivation for better decision-making, goal setting, and stress management
  • Learn to lead creatively through change

To be eligible to apply you must:

  • Attend a Central Ohio High School (public, private, charter, and homeschool high schoolers are all eligible).
  • Be a rising high school junior or senior planning to graduate in 2025 or 2026.
  • Be able to attend every day of the program from Monday, July 22 – Saturday, July 27; 8am-4pm.
  • Be willing to participate in the COLA Alumni experience.

Ideal student applicants:

  • Demonstrate notable leadership ability among peers.
  • Pursue interests outside of the classroom.
  • Are eager to learn and self-improve.
  • Have an interest in becoming a more effective leader.
  • Are curious and open-minded.

Completed applications consist of the following four components:

  • A resume OR complete listing of current and past community and/or school involvements. Dates of involvement as well as roles/responsibilities should be indicated.
  • Responses to the following three questions with no more than 300 words each:
  1. Why do you want to attend the Central Ohio Leadership Academy, and what is an issue at your school or in your community that is important to you?
  2. Choose one person who you look up to as a leader. What are their demonstrated leadership behaviors that inspire you? 
  3. What do you want to accomplish by the end of your senior year of high school, and what do you hope to do post-graduation?
  • One recommendation letter from an adult or educator (no family relation) that can speak to the applicant’s leadership abilities. Recommendation letters can be uploaded into the application, or submitted to Laddan Shoar via email (
  • A completed online application.


Check out the COLA 2023 Highlights video!

Key Dates

January 10: Enrollment opens

March 31: Early Bird Enrollment closes

May 31: EXTENDED Enrollment deadline

July 22-27: COLA Week!

Are you ready for COLA 2024? Enroll now or learn more by requesting more information or contacting Program Manager Laddan Shoar.

Cost-Free Experience

The COLA Program is fully-funded and generously supported by individual and corporate donations, as well as community grants.

Time Commitment

COLA Week is a 6-day intensive that runs from 8am-4pm, Monday through Saturday, July 22-27, 2024. Participants must be able to commit to the 6-day experience.


Transportation accommodations can be arranged for Franklin County participants.


COLA Info Sheet

COLA Sponsorship Opportunities 2024