News & Events

Leadership Columbus Expands to High School Leaders

Leadership Columbus acquires Central Ohio Leadership Academy (COLA), a premier high school leadership program to again expand their leadership development programming in the community.

COLUMBUS—Leadership Columbus announces another expansion of programming, benefitting youth. Central Ohio Leadership Academy (COLA), an organization known for creating life-changing experiences for Central Ohio’s high school student leaders by developing their leadership skills, how to lead with purpose, and make positive changes in their schools and communities; will now operate under the Leadership Columbus umbrella.

“Our collaboration with COLA means that we can now offer Central Ohio a clear leadership development continuum, ensuring the development of a strong pipeline of community trustees,” said Leadership Columbus Board Chair, Eddie Pauline.

COLA was founded in 2011 by the New Albany Community Foundation in partnership with The Ohio State University and has grown over the years through the support of The Columbus Foundation, United Way, Easton Community Foundation, KIPP Columbus, and the Educational Services Center of Central Ohio, who most recently housed the organization.  The organization offers a signature one-week summer leadership program for rising high school juniors and seniors in Central Ohio.  Since 2011, the program has impacted 450 students from 86 different high schools throughout central Ohio and is regularly cited by students as one of the most impactful experiences of their lives.

“COLA was one of the most life changing moments in my life. In one week, COLA made me a confident, passionate, and motivated person with tools to help me achieve my dreams all while making me a much more effective leader,” said Jordan Reeves, 2018 COLA graduate. “I have been fortunate enough to attend multiple different leadership conferences and COLA has stood out from the rest. I am extremely excited about the future of COLA and cannot wait to see how future COLA graduates will improve our community with the support of Leadership Columbus!”

“I am incredibly excited about COLA (Central Ohio Leadership Academy) being under the Leadership Columbus umbrella.  COLA is already a remarkable program, and we get to continue to build on the strong foundation that already exists. We want to expand development opportunities and reach young leaders early on,” said Karen Hewitt, M.Ed., Associate Director of Leadership Columbus and COLA Program Manager. “This program allows us to actively effect change in our communities and shows that perpetual learning is important in being catalysts for community growth and development. This is a very powerful moment for COLA and Leadership Columbus.”

Earlier this month, Leadership Columbus announced they were building out their programming and that Relā, an organization known for impactful programs that fit into the learning and development arena, was sun setting their organization at the end of 2021 and Leadership Columbus will assume Relā’s programs and keep the legacy of those programs alive while building out their own programming.

Now, with the addition of COLA, the combined programs will complement the Leadership Columbus Signature Program and offer expanded programs for leaders at every level.

“Over the past ten years, COLA has empowered hundreds of young leaders across our community to dream bigger and make a difference in the communities they live in.  COLA becoming a part of Leadership Columbus is a natural next step for the organization,” said Jordan Davis, one of the original founders of COLA.  “Leadership Columbus will carry forward the culture and curriculum of the one-week experience, and enrich the student experience by providing connections to leaders within their network and involvement opportunities beyond the one-week experience.”

“Leadership Columbus has always been on a mission of equipping the city’s future trustees. Our vision for growth includes creating a continuum of learning and development experiences that begins in high school and continues pre-retirement,” said Leadership Columbus Executive Director, Shannon Lee. “By bringing the COLA program into our fold, we are bringing a part of that expanded vision to life here and now. We couldn’t be more humbled and excited to partner with the Board of Advisors of COLA to make this possible.”

According to Lee, these programs fit perfectly within the Leadership Columbus future vision of growth by providing specific programs at the high school level, as well as for young professionals (NxGen) and seasoned professionals (ExecGen), which is centered on servant leadership and emotional intelligence – two areas of study not often taught in your average large-scale leadership development experience.

Lee says this is a win-win-win situation since both organizations value Experiential Learning and Decision Making; Leadership Development; Community Impact; Relationship Building; Cultural Responsiveness, as well as servant leadership, service, collaboration, making a difference, and developing leaders.

About Central Ohio Leadership Academy (COLA)

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 450 students from 86 different high schools throughout central Ohio. 10 years of service to young people in the Columbus community.

About Leadership Columbus

The mission of Leadership Columbus is to develop, connect and inspire diverse leaders who serve as catalysts in building a strong and vibrant community. Today, Leadership Columbus provides education and training for emerging and existing leaders in the Columbus area. Since 1974, Leadership Columbus has been the premier training ground to educate, empower, equip, and prepare more than 2,900 individuals to become the current and future trustees in and for our community. Leadership Columbus graduates have contributed to the quality of life in Central Ohio by their deeds and actions. In addition to completing more than 200 community projects, Leadership Columbus alumni have assumed positions of leadership in government, banking, business, industry, nonprofit sectors, politics, journalism, education, philanthropy, law, and neighborhood development. In addition, graduates populate the boards of the arts, health care and innumerable other nonprofit organizations in Central Ohio.

About Relā

The Gathering/Columbus was founded in 1988 as a local chapter of a national organization, The Gathering. The local chapter decided to reorganize after responding to community need for an expanded mission and vision in leadership development. The result was the establishment of Relā in 2014. Since that time, Relā expanded to over a dozen programs focusing on leadership skills, management training and helping professionals from all over Ohio grow personally and professionally.