40 Wonderful Years / 40 Great Stories
This is 40 – a milestone that recognizes an organization that has stood the test of time and alumni who continue to meet the challenges in our city. In honoring the past four decades, the alumni of Leadership Charlotte are the people who embody the core values of the program by leading. These forty stories simply scratch the surface to show the different paths alumni have taken to become instruments of change in Charlotte. Each story illustrates the transformative changes alumni have experienced and the hope of continued impact future classes have on our community. These stories represent your story, the story of your classmates and the other Leadership Charlotte alumni who continue to affect change in our city.
Thesha Woodley LC Class 38 Associate Director of Visitor Experience & Membership, Mint Museum
Sometimes the affirmation we need when making a big decision doesn’t arrive until after the decision has been made. When Thesha Woodley joined LC, she had just left the corporate sector to pursue a career as a nonprofit leader. “I was yearning to change my trajectory to live my life with more intention,” she says. After graduating LC, Thesha felt a renewed pride in her decision to work for a nonprofit, largely because of the new insights and connections she gained from LC. As Thesha describes it, “LC was a transformative opportunity.” It showed her the city’s greatest strengths and weaknesses, connected her to other servant leaders, and taught her facilitation and leadership techniques. “It played a part in affirming me and encouraging me to cultivate my gifts to better serve my community. I have been able to better serve my staff and colleagues at the Mint, my church community, and my alumni chapter,” she says. “I now know that my voice matters and that I must use it for those that come behind me or those that don’t have an opportunity to sit at the table.”
Jennifer DeWitt LC Class 39 Program Officer, The Leon Levine Foundation
The feeling of simultaneously expanding in multiple directions is a familiar one to many LC graduates. This was certainly how Jennifer DeWitt felt. “LC offered so many ways to participate and connect in the community,” she says. “Not only does LC expand one’s personal and professional network, but it also opens one’s eyes more broadly to the city’s needs.” After graduating from LC, Jennifer became a strong community advocate for improving philanthropic investments across the region. She grew her involvement with the YMCA, becoming chair of the advocacy sub-committee. “I didn’t hesitate to attend county commission meetings and write elected officials to show my support for arts, culture, and green spaces in the community.” She also became chair of the programs committee of a professional women’s organization to leverage insights on topics and speakers that others would value. “I deepened my involvement in community organizations and was better able to offer ideas, facilitate introductions, get people active, and leverage resources to help find solutions,” she adds. “I always embrace opportunities to network with those eager to learn about Charlotte and make an impact. It’s all about helping and supporting each other.”
Taiwo Jaiyeoba LC Class 40 Assistant City Manager and Director of Planning, City of Charlotte
If you ask Taiwo Jaiyeoba about his story after LC, he’ll say, “My story as a member of class 40 is still being written!” As Charlotte’s Assistant City Manager and Director of Planning, Taiwo is leading the development of Charlotte Future 2040, a comprehensive plan aimed at bringing citizens together by mapping the future for Charlotte’s parks, transit, businesses, and housing to ensure all citizens have access to opportunity. “Perhaps the most impactful aspect of LC for me was the relationships formed as a result of the class and how that has transformed my outlook not just as a public employee but as a community builder. Throughout the program and since then, I made it a point to meet with various community leaders and residents on a regular basis to learn how we can build an equitable and inclusive Charlotte,” Taiwo says. This kind of relationship-building inspired many of Charlotte Future 2040’s community engagement activities, which, Taiwo explains, are critical for creating a plan of this magnitude. “This is the first time a plan like this would be developed for Charlotte since 1975; therefore, it is multi-generational and multi-dimensional. It will impact how we live, where we live, how we move, the businesses we attract, and the type of community we want to be for decades to come,” Taiwo says. “Our new comprehensive vision and development process will be informed by community input which will help us in telling a different story of our future: that of a community that is healthy and complete, where everyone can have access to affordable housing, full-service grocery stores, efficient transit services, medical facilities, open spaces, and among others, the things that make a community livable, equitable, and sustainable.”