Central Ohio Leadership Academy

The Central Ohio Leadership Academy (COLA), established in 2011 by the New Albany Community Foundation and presented by the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, is the only comprehensive leadership development experience for rising high school juniors and seniors in Central Ohio.


COLA is a high-impact, six-day leadership development experience for rising high school juniors and seniors in Central Ohio. More and more, high schools (public, private, and charter) do not have the resources or capacity to intentionally equip their students with leadership and self-development training. Additionally, there is little to no opportunity for high-potential Central Ohio students to connect with one another in a safe and educational space that is focused on their personal growth. COLA fills these personal development gaps and is an elite program in the Central Ohio community.

Each COLA class is comprised of 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 want to spend focused time on developing their sense of self.

COLA contributes to building a strong pipeline of effective community leaders by setting up our most promising young people for greater success after high school. During the intensive six-day COLA experience, students develop their leadership effectiveness by participating in professionally facilitated training sessions, interactive team challenges, and substantial discussions with peers and proven community leaders. At COLA, students will explore and analyze the following topics:

  • Personal leadership and individual strengths.
  • Collaboration and teamwork.
  • Ethical and value based decision-making.
  • Community impact.
  • Visioning and Goal Setting.


The intensive six-day COLA experience sets itself apart from other high school leadership programs because of its high-caliber guest speakers, one-of-a-kind culture, college-level curriculum, and like-minded students.


Community leaders who have participated in COLA include:

George Barrett | Chairman & CEO, Cardinal Health

Gene Smith | Associate Vice President & Director of Athletics, The Ohio State University

Tanny Crane | President & CEO, Crane Book, Co.

Jan Allen | Executive Coach

Keith Bell | Former Chief Academic Office, Columbus City Schools

TaKeysha S. Cheney | Founder & CEO, The Women's Book

Elfi Dibella | President, YWCA

Nichole Dunn | President & CEO, Women's Fund of Central Ohio

Yaves Ellis | CEO, Sling Shot Media Group & Public Affairs Director, RadioOne

Alex Fischer | President & CEO, Columbus Partnership

Dr. E Gordon Gee | President Emeritis, The Ohio State University

C. Robert Kidder | Past Chairman, Chrysler Group LLC & Past Lead Director of the Board, Morgan Stanley

Doug Kridler | President, The Columbus Foundation

Patrick Losinski | CEO, Columbus Metropolitan Library

Judge Algenon Marbley | United States District Judge

Yvette McGee Brown | Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice

Dean Christine Poon | Dean, Fisher College of Business

Peyman X. Salehi | Market Director - Private Banking, JP Morgan Chase Bank

Robert H. Schottenstein | CEO, M/I Homes

Todd Tuney | CEO, CityYear Columbus

Ben Tyson | Senior Manager, Easton Community Foundation

Tammy Wharton | CEO, Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland Council Inc.


Four primary philosophies create COLA's transformational culture:

  • COLA students are not just the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today. Every COLA student is passionate and has the capability to be a prominent leader today, not just tomorrow. There are examples all across the world of young people leading and positively impacting the world we live in. COLA individualizes its curriculum to best develop students to be the leaders they can be today with an understanding of how to be an even greater leader tomorrow.
  • Leaders are not defined by a position or title; leaders are defined by the choices and positive impact they make. COLA challenge's student's to not limit or evaluate their leadership based on holding a position/role in an organization, club, or sports team. COLA emphasizes the intentional hard work and ethical decision making that is required to positively impact the lives of other and the community.
  • Anyone can lead if they control their P.O.W.E.R. In COLA, P.O.W.E.R. is a loaded word that encompasses five states of being that every person can control. COLA students and alumni are expected to have control of their own P.O.W.E.R. every day because it is then that they are able to make the greatest impact.
  • Being YOU is what makes you great. COLA has a culture that is accepting of all students no matter their interests, passions, talents, or appearance. COLA promotes authenticity and individuality.


COLA partners with The Ohio State University’s Buckeye Leadership Fellows (BLF) Program in The Office of Student Life to develop and deliver its outcome oriented curriculum.

The COLA curriculum fluidly applies the concepts of ‘True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership by Bill George, Peter Sims, and David Gergen over the course of six days. Students will:

  • Complete the Gallup StrengthsFinder Assessment (cost covered by COLA)
  • Receive professionally facilitated strengths training customized to their assessment results
  • Engage in interactive activities and peer-to-peer discussions on important topics and civic issues that help frame their understanding of leadership
  • Become more self-aware through thoughtful reflection
  • Develop actionable goals for their pursuits after the program
  • Learn from proven and highly respected Central Ohio leaders


Through a competitive application process, 45 students are selected to be a part of COLA's flagship six-day program in June. Each COLA class is made up of like-minded students that want to become more effective leaders.

COLA recruits students by leveraging COLA's "Schottenstein Alumni Network," the leadership of district superintendents, and existing relationships with school administrators, counselors, and teachers. The program strives to select a class that is demographically and geographically diverse. Participating students attend urban, suburban and rural school districts as well as public, private and charter schools. All eligible students are encouraged to apply and can learn more about the application process here.

Supporters 2014


July 20 - 25, 2015

Monday - Saturday: 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

Free to the students that are selected
to participate. Materials and daily lunch are also complimentary.

KIPP Columbus

Christine & Jeff Rodek
Easton Community Foundation >>
New Albany Community
Foundation >>

Educational Service Center of Central Ohio

Buckeye Leadership Fellows >>

If you have questions please
direct them via email to director@coleadershipacademy.org.

220 Market Street, Suite 205, N
ew Albany, Ohio 43054