Leadership Academy

Community of Learning Leadership Academy

At a Glance

The Leadership Academy connects and supports a network of community leaders, building an understanding of future work and learning trends, and creating opportunities for reflection and design of whole-community strategies that best prepare young residents for tomorrow’s world and workforce.





Experts Involved
In progress


JFF’s Community Leadership Academy is an 18-month experience that allows place-based teams to explore education and workforce forecasts and trends and design ways to prepare young residents for a lifetime of learning and work in our rapidly changing world.

To thrive in tomorrow’s world, young people must be able to regularly update and upgrade what they know and what they are able to do. This requires that they grow up with equitable access to quality learning and life experiences. To do this, communities must have the infrastructure and systems to reach all young people with the education, supports, and resources they need.


Although learning happens in many ways and in many places, young people spend most of their time in school. American schools are historically inequitable in terms of access, experience, and outcomes. As a result, too many learners—disproportionately those who are Black, brown, and poor—are held back because they attend outdated schools that aren’t designed to prepare them for the future.

Educational institutions and other youth-serving systems need to be modernized in ways that make them more equitable and better able to prepare all young people for learning and work in adulthood.

Our Why

Young people born in the 21st century are growing up and entering the workforce in a rapidly changing and volatile time. Many of their K-12 experiences have been defined by the Great Recession and now by COVID-19, both of which have deepened divides and disparities across racial and class lines. This future workforce will be asked to take on novel challenges, compete for never-before-seen jobs, and work with and alongside technology in new ways. While emerging research suggests that many of these young people will live to be 100, that possibility is largely determined by the opportunities, support, and resources they receive in childhood and adolescence.

America’s public education systems and other youth-serving institutions are outdated and are not designed or outfitted to prepare today’s young residents for tomorrow’s challenges. To get young people ready, communities must provide a more modern and equitable learning infrastructure and new opportunities within and beyond the schoolhouse. Beyond buildings, communities must become “communities of learning”—that is, places where young residents can get the quality, connected, and continuous learning and workforce training they need to be ready for long lifetimes of learning and work.

Our How

JFF’s Community Leadership Academy offers community leaders time and space to learn more about these new realities and think about the kinds of state- and community-level changes they will require.


Place-based leadership teams take part in facilitated and carefully curated experiences, and they learn from each other and from cutting-edge leaders in the field. They also receive ongoing, customized and tiered support—individually, by place, role, and cohort. The Academy experience is designed to support teams both in person and online.

Cohorts are made up of at least three place-based teams. Collectively, teams bring an understanding of local and state context, as well as technical expertise in career pathways, student-centered learning, health and human services, community organizing, and systems change. The teams might include some combination of leaders such as these:

  • Elected or appointed government officials (state or local)
  • Nonprofit executives
  • K-12 education leaders
  • Higher education leaders
  • Community organizers or other community leaders
  • Youth leaders

Teams bring a diverse range of perspectives and expertise, a desire to learn and reflect, and broad influence and reach.

The 2020 Cohort


Michael Dueser

Chicago Public Schools

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Jonathan Furr


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Lazaro Lopez

Illinois Community College Board

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Bernadette Howard

University of Hawai'i


Herb Lee

Pacific American Foundation

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Cheryl Lupenui

The Kohala Center

Networking: Learning from others, reciprocal reflection, innovation, establishing new creative partnerships that can lead to transformation.

Herb Lee, Pacific American Foundation
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Benjamin Duran

Central Valley Higher Education Consortium

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Deborah J. Nankivell

Fresno Business Council


Jeremy Ward

Fresno Unified School District


Virginia Madrid-Salazar

Central Valley Higher Education Consortium

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Karri Hammerstrom

Fresno K-16 Collaborative

The opportunity to stop, listen and reflect is a gift when our culture has over-glorified doing and measurable results.

Deborah Nankivell, Fresno Business Council

Patricia Blumenauer

Philadelphia Works

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Cynthia F. Figueroa

Office of Children and Families, Philadelphia


Maari Porter

Policy and Strategic Initiatives

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Ali Robinson-Rogers

The School District of Philadelphia