Students in front of Leprino Hall at NLA.

National Leadership Academy lessons

Seven of our Leaders for Life, students in the final phase of our Next Steps Program, attended the National Leadership Academy (NLA) last week in Denver, CO. NLA is an intensive 4-day Academy for high school students, focusing on developing heart-led leaders through compassion to others and service to the community. NLA builds leadership skills, inspires purpose, and empowers students to ask, “What more can I do to make a positive impact in my school, community, and the world?”

When they returned from the NLA, we interviewed a few students and they answered that question:


I need to be myself and do what I do. I’ll be a leader in my community by switching it up. Instead of smoking, gang violence and carrying a gun I will encourage others to go to school, stay away from gangs and do sports or get a job. It is hard because there is a lot of temptation but I’m thinking about my future—we need more people to set a positive example and I will be one.


There are multiple ways to handle a situation or challenge. I can’t dive into a situation head first and expect to get it right all the time. My way will not always be the right way. We learned to stop, think, listen and then act. I will listen to different people and opinions in my community as I lead.


They taught someone how to juggle in front of the audience at the NLA. They told us to cheer when he got it right. But they also said to cheer when he got it wrong because it is okay to fail. We grow through failure. I will cheer for people who fail, including myself.


We learned to be heart-led leaders—to lead with our heart through love, kindness, compassion and empathy. Someone out there will always have had it worse than I did. I want to give people more chances than they deserve. I want to serve others and help them find their purpose.


I was nervous to visit Columbine High School where we walked the grounds, saw the memorial and the former principal spoke. He talked about the aftermath of the shooting and how their was an opportunity for hope. I want to be a leader who unites people through love and inspires hope.

It’s evident that this event was a deeply transformational experience for our students—we’re excited to see how they transform their communities with their leadership! Please consider a financial contribution to our 100% full scholarship programming, which includes this Academy experience for our Leaders for Life.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.