About US

Program Overview

The Central Ohio Leadership Academy (COLA) is a high-impact, year-round leadership development experience designed for rising high school junior and senior student leaders throughout Central Ohio. The objective of COLA is to create life-changing experiences for our community’s young leaders, develop their leadership skills, and enable them to work with others, lead with purpose, and make positive changes in their schools and communities.

Since its founding in 2011 by the New Albany Community Foundation in collaboration with The Ohio State University, COLA has impacted the lives of more than 350 students from 86 different high schools throughout central Ohio.

The experience provides a unique participatory experience that cultivates leadership, ethical decision-making, self-reflection and relationship building among the participants. Student learning is guided by an instructional collaborative that includes trained facilitators, educators from the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, as well as community leaders from across Central Ohio.

Each COLA class is made up of no more than fifty rising high school junior and senior 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 spending time developing their sense of self.

COLA recruits students by leveraging COLA’s Schottenstein Alumni Network, the leadership of district superintendents, and existing relationships with school administrators, counselors, students, and teachers. The program strives to select a class that is demographically and geographically diverse. All eligible students are encouraged to apply and can learn more about the application process here.

Due to the generous support of program donors The Columbus Foundation, The Easton Community Foundation, and the ESC of Central Ohio, COLA is provided free of cost to all students. Learn more about our program supporters and advisory board here.

different high schools

students changed

students per class

cohort facilitators


What Our Students Say

 I needed something like this to present a path and knowledge to where I want to go and what I want to do. This whole experience has and will be more effective than anything I’ve maybe ever been apart of…and I’ve only been here for a week.

Grant Crabill

Grandview Heights, 2015 COLA Alumnus

This program was truly a life changing experience which gave me great insight and a better sense of self awareness (in reference to both my leadership style and myself as a person).

Sam Turner

Hilliard Darby, 2014 COLA Alumnus