VCLA’s mission is to connect and empower a diverse group of leaders.
by Jenny Guy
The 35 cohort members of the 2016 Ventura County Leadership Academy (VCLA) will be graduating this May, with a celebration at Ventura City Hall.
Founded in 1994 as an initiative of United Way of Ventura County, VCLA’s mission is to connect and empower “a diverse group of leaders whose actions enhance the quality of life throughout Ventura County.” Now in its 21st year, the academy’s “Blackjack” Cohort XXI consists of a prestigious roster of executives and budding personnel from a wide variety of regionally based organizations. Organizations of VCLA’s Cohort XXI include Habitat for Humanity, Ventura County Animal Services, Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast, Ventura County Credit Union, American Red Cross, Ventura County Fire and many more.
Basing curriculum on the relational leadership model, the 10-month VCLA program promotes and trains members on ethical and inclusive decision-making that benefits the common good. Once per month, the academy holds full-day sessions which confront cohort members with the interconnected realities of Ventura County’s economic development, transportation, health care, public safety, governance, agriculture, natural environment and education
“VCLA offers an amazing opportunity to be exposed to key challenges of, and opportunities for, the county as well as to meet the people that are charged with creating new visions to serve and grow our local economy,” said Ventura resident and employer liaison to VC Innovates, Hilary Howard of Cohort XXI.
The program spans from September to May with sessions taking place in various parts of the county. Beyond the monthly meetings, VCLA members are invited to participate in ride-alongs with local fire stations and law enforcement in order to gain additional insight into the county. They are also encouraged to network, socialize and share ideas outside of the academy’s scheduled itinerary.
“The VCLA program has taken my strength as a connector, and allowed me to expand my reach,” said Jill Shaffer, current executive director of VCLA. “Along the way, I’ve learned so much about the critical issues in our county and the actions I can take as an individual.”
For one session each year, the VCLA members are divided into small groups and assigned to explore Ventura County’s 10 cities. Each city group is then responsible for presenting their community explorations back to the cohort at later sessions.
VCLA members are also asked to Sacramento to hear from elected officials and other influencers of policy over a three-day session. On the 2016 Sacramento trip, Cohort XXI heard from Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, Assemblymember Das Williams, Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin and a number of other dignitaries on issues relating to Ventura County — as well as the state of California and the nation.
For more information on VCLA, visit vcunitedway.org.
Jenny Guy is the director of communications for Mustang Marketing, a current member of the VCLA’s Cohort XXI, co-chair for the Public Relations Society of America’s Young Professionals Club and a resident of the City of Ventura.