History of the Central Ohio Leadership Academy

The Central Ohio Leadership Academy (COLA) is a high-impact leadership development experience designed for rising high school junior and senior student leaders throughout Central Ohio. The objective of COLA is to create life-changing experiences for our community’s young leaders, develop their leadership skills, and enable them to work with others, lead with purpose, and make positive changes in their schools and communities.

Formerly a standalone program, COLA was adopted into the Leadership Columbus family of programs in 2021. Since its founding in 2011 by the New Albany Community Foundation in collaboration with The Ohio State University, COLA has impacted the lives of more than 350 students from 86 different high schools throughout central Ohio.

The experience provides a unique participatory experience that cultivates leadership, ethical decision-making, self-reflection and relationship building among the participants. Student learning is guided by an instructional collaborative that includes trained facilitators, educators from The Ohio State University, as well as community leaders from across Central Ohio.

Each COLA class is made up of fifty rising high school junior and senior students representing urban, suburban and rural districts as well as public, private and charter schools. Ideal participants are students who have applied, or are applying, effective leadership skills in their schools or communities. These are students who would benefit from engaging with like-minded peers and spending time developing their sense of self.

COLA recruits students by leveraging COLA and Leadership Columbus Alumni Networks, the leadership of district superintendents, and existing relationships with area schools and communities. The program strives to select a class that is demographically and geographically diverse. All eligible students are encouraged to apply and can learn more about the application process here.

COLA Class of 2022 Highlight Video