Reflections of a recent (HCLA) graduate …

At least once a month for the past year or so, my husband has asked me the same question: “So, are you a leader yet?”

He thinks he’s being funny, making light of my participation in the Hamilton County Leadership Academy, but I give him an honest answer anyway: I’m working on it.

That’s still true even now that my Class of 2014 has “graduated.”

In fact, we spent very little time during the 10-month program talking about leadership. Our monthly curriculum days instead focused on learning about a range of local issues, from development to education to human services.

We heard from elected officials, school superintendents and not-for-profit executives. We served on a mock jury, watched 911 dispatchers work and toured the county jail. (My personal highlight: a Carb Day ride-along with Fishers Police Officer Greg Weesner.)

We discussed growth over lunch with Beck’s Hybrids President Sonny Beck and talked regionalism with Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.

Outside of class, we worked on projects intended to address area needs.

One group inventoried recreational trails throughout the county to identify gaps. Another put together a portfolio of early-childhood educational offerings for local preschools. Others explored setting up a microloan program for needy families and establishing a training center for charity leaders. (My group is planning a chili cook-off and other events to keep our fellow HCLA alumni engaged with the organization.)

Now we join more than 500 others who have completed the HCLA course since it was founded in 1991—and figure out how to apply what we’ve learned.

Indianapolis Super Bowl guru Allison Melangton spoke to our class (and 100 or so of our closest friends) at HCLA’s inaugural Leadership Summit this month, delivering a message that helped me come up with a better answer to my husband’s question.

The 2012 Super Bowl wasn’t about football, she said, or even the city’s proven event-hosting prowess. Instead, the much-heralded Super Bowl was an exercise in community building fueled by one of central Indiana’s greatest assets: its people.

I look at the Hamilton County Leadership Academy experience through a similar lens. The three weeks or so my classmates and I spent immersed in all things HamCo doesn’t necessarily make us leaders, but it gives us the tools we need to be assets to our communities.

Shameless plug: Applications for the next Hamilton County Leadership Academy class are due June 30. Find more information at

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