Impact stories








 CLC 10th Logo

CLC is celebrating its 10th anniversary all year long. To illustrate the impact CLC has made in CLE over the past decade, every Friday we will be sharing a new "Because of CLC" alumni anecdote. Check back each week for our featured alumni impact story, browse through the previous week's quotes and be sure to share your own CLC impact story with us.


Because of CLC...

Mark Ross“… Because of Leadership Cleveland, I am connected, engaged and successful. When I moved back to Cleveland last year as our Firm's managing partner, I wanted to find ways to quickly assimilate back into Northeast Ohio. The single best decision I made since my return was to apply for and participate in Leadership Cleveland. What I learned about the civic inner-workings of our City was immeasurable and the relationships I have developed with my class members have enhanced my personal and professional network exponentially and permanently. I am extremely grateful for the LC experience and will remain an ambassador for CLC into the future!”

Mark Ross (LC 2016)
Lake Erie Market Managing Partner and Deals Partner, PwC US


Joe Smucny“ … Alenka Winslett and I are LC Class of '16. Stuart Rosenberg is LC Class of '13. We are all linked through Cleveland coincidence in various ways, personally and professionally. The one thing that binds us however, is CLC.

This past summer, my firm, Centric Consulting, sponsored a golf outing that Westfield Insurance hosts each year to benefit The Jimmy Malone Foundation and College Now. Stuart is on the executive leadership team at Westfield; Alenka is a member of the executive leadership team at College Now. Although all three of us were connected in the past, it is the CLC connection that helped us reach a whole new level of community impact. Since that initial golf outing, we've teamed up to do a radio show with Jimmy Malone, raised funds for College Now through special events, and signed up dozens of our colleagues as student mentors.

One of the most valuable things we take away from our CLC experiences is the multiplier power of relationships. Each one of us wants to create remarkable change to make the world a better place, but that’s a tall order for each of us individually. Collectively however, we can move mountains, and in this case send hundreds of kids to college that otherwise may not have had the chance. CLC creates venues by which we can share our passions and link our talents to achieve much greater impact together than we could on our own. ”

Joe Smucny (LC 2016, CBB 2002)
Vice President Cleveland Practice Lead, Centric Consulting


Robert Newman“… My CBB experience was extremely beneficial on both a personal and business level. On a personal level, I made some amazing friends who I will remain close with for the rest of our lives.

As the Development Director of a nonprofit, my CBB experience has increased the exposure of my agency directly to 60+ individuals and indirectly to a much broader network of alumni. Anytime I have a question or a need for my agency, I can consult with an enormous network of CBB alumni to get answers, referrals or support for just about any issue that comes across my desk. The program was worth every second of my time and every penny of tuition.”

Robert Newman (LC 2017, CBB 2008, CLI 2011)
Development Director Community Assessment & Treatment Services, Inc.


Pooja Patel“… Four years ago, I moved to Cleveland to start law school. After three years of living in my small bubble in University Circle, I began my career and quickly found that I still had a lot to learn about Cleveland. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join the OnBoard Cleveland program. This program opened my eyes to what Cleveland is really about – a community filled with individuals who truly care about the city and its residents, and are willing to take the extra steps to make it a better place for everyone.

Through OnBoard, I not only learned about the various organizations in the city, but I was also able to make connections with other young professionals. During our last session, each member of our class invited a local nonprofit leader to come and speak to our group, and I was able to meet the CEO of Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio, Jane Christyson. I am a Girl Scout alum and spoke to her about how to get involved. I am now volunteering in fundraising and efforts to engage young alumnae. While I had no idea what to expect when joining the OnBoard class, I am glad I had the opportunity to participate because I learned more about the Cleveland community, made great connections, and learned more about myself.”

Pooja Patel (OBC 2016)
Associate, Frantz Ward LLP


Stephanie Dorsey“… The Cleveland Leadership Center has been, and continues to be, a key resource in guiding and supporting me through my civic engagement and leadership journey starting with Bridge Builders, then the Civic Leadership Institute and today with Leadership Cleveland. My experience through these programs encouraged me to take an active role in our community serving as President of The Junior League of Cleveland for the past two years, as well as at work by supporting our Forest City Realty Trust United Way Young Leaders chapter as Executive Sponsor. I am grateful for the awareness, education and connection Cleveland Leadership Center has provided. I am proud to carry the lessons they have taught me forward to create positive impact and change in our community.”

Stephanie Dorsey (LC 2017, CBB 2008, CLI 2011)
Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives & Corporate Operations, Forest City Realty Trust, Inc.


Yvonne Pointer“… When my daughter, Gloria Pointer, was brutally raped and murdered in 1984, I thought it was the end of my world. However, I found purpose in my pain. I became a community activist with a mission to make the world a safer place for children. We started the Midnight Basketball Program in the City of Cleveland, which was geared to keeping young men ages 18-25 off the streets between the hours of 10:00 p.m. - 2:00 a.m. Crime was being reduced.

I was asked to give a presentation about the program to Leadership Cleveland. To my delight, I was able to go through Leadership Cleveland the following year. The experience was impactful to me as an activist. It placed me in a class setting with phenomenal like-minded classmates whose mission was also to improve our city. Many of my classmates helped me grow the program in ways that would not have been possible without their help.

In addition to the work in Cleveland, we have built three schools in Ghana, West Africa, in memory of Gloria and are currently preparing to break ground on a fourth .”

Yvonne Pointer (LC 1994)
Retired Project Director, Special Events, Community Relations Department, City of Cleveland

(P.S. After twenty-nine years, Gloria’s killer was arrested and convicted in 2014.)


Tom Brew“… I am truly grateful for my involvement with the Cleveland Leadership Center. It has been an eye and heart-opening experience while being exposed to new organizations, people and ways of thinking. On-Board Cleveland prepared me to make a greater difference and empowered me to fulfill my civic duties. Through my participation, the program also allowed me to reflect on my personal values and reinforce my self-confidence. This introspective process supported my civic readiness and enabled me to commit to a level of service I didn’t know was possible. As a proud member of such a strong community of leaders, this opportunity will only continue to help me in the future as I strive towards reaching my goals.”

Tom Brew (OBC 2016)
Senior Wellness Consultant, ERChealth


Jane Flaherty“… I became reacquainted with downtown Cleveland, our past, our present, our people and our journey. I've always had pride in my hometown, and after the Civic Leadership Institute, I understand that civic engagement is the foundation of our society and the ripple effect of that engagement helps us thrive. CLI was an incredible education and experience that made me feel so much at home downtown that I opened my law practice in Terminal Tower. CLI classmates have become personal friends. CLC opened my eyes and the door to civic leadership.”

Jane Flaherty (CLI 2014)
Owner, Jane Flaherty Attorney at Law LLC


Rita Andolsen“… I've had the opportunity to develop relationships with classmates from across the community that have deepened my civic involvement and allowed me to give back to my community in a more robust way. I love that I can pick up the phone and call Leadership Cleveland folks from my class or any other class and there is an instant connection that helps move a project forward or provides an answer I need. The Cleveland Leadership Center connects me to the opportunities that are available to truly make a difference in helping to shape Cleveland's future.”

Rita Andolsen (LC 2011, CEBC 2012, LC2 Fellows 2013)
Director, System Communications, The MetroHealth System


Michael Christoff“… The people you meet through the Cleveland Leadership Center are truly remarkable and become lifelong friends and partners that you depend on as you build on your passion for making a difference here in Cleveland. My Bridge Builders experience continues to inspire me to think about not only WHAT I do at work and in the community, but more importantly WHY I do it. Prior to Bridge Builders, I spent six years working with an amazing team hosting PechaKucha Night events where we ask passionate and creative Clevelanders to share their story. We attracted over 12,000 people to 24 events. Bridge Builders helped me reconnect with WHY we host these community events and inspired me to explore additional ways our team could help other organizations throughout Cleveland connect with their own creative communities. Whether in working with local arts and creative organizations or volunteering for local schools, I always find myself going back to my friends from Bridge Builders for guidance and inspiration on my path forward.”

Michael Christoff (CBB 2014)
Project Architect, Vocon


Keniece Gray“… I have additional access to resources needed to uplift my community. My participation in Look Up To Cleveland programs provided me with exposure to diverse aspects of Cleveland’s culture, an extensive network of movers and shakers, and the skill set needed to effectively manage relationships between civic assets, issues, and stakeholders in order to improve the community.

Many of these connections have greatly influenced my participation in community engagement opportunities like collaborations with community partners to host backpack drives and service events, the completion of my college preparatory handbook for CMSD students, and membership on the NextGen Committee of CLC’s Leadership Council. Additionally, my engagement with CLC and the community greatly influenced my decision to found The EXCEL Club and my election as the International Second Vice-President of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

My CLC experiences have inspired my decision to live in Cleveland post-graduation from CWRU and to dedicate my entrepreneurial efforts to serving Cleveland’s urban youth and emerging professionals. The insight gained from my CLC experiences motivates me to strive for excellence personally, academically, and professionally so I can inspire others to do the same and provide them with resources to do so as we work together to uplift our communities.”

Keniece Gray (LookUp School Year and Summer programs 2011)
Student, Case Western Reserve University
Second International Vice President at Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated


Matt Fieldman“… I can say that EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute wouldn’t be where it is today without the connections I made through Bridge Builders 2012. Then, after winning Accelerate 2015, CLC provided me with the funding, connections, and motivation to make my idea of Cleveland Codes – one of the nation’s first nonprofit software development boot camps – a reality.”

Matt Fieldman (CBB 2012)
VP of External Affairs, MAGNET The Manufacturing Advocacy & Growth Network
Founder, Cleveland Codes: The Tri-C Software Development Academy Board Chair, EDWINS
Board Chair, EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute Rockit Results
Rockit Results


Sara Stashower“… They say everyone knows everyone in this city. Not true! The relationships that began in that class defined the next many years of my life in the community. Sending interns to Mary Alice Frank when she led the Red Cross, helping rebrand (i)Cleveland with Phil Rice [Executive Vice President, National City Bank at the time], introducing David LaRue [President and CEO, Forest City Realty Trust] to Cleveland School of the Arts where he worked his magic, following Mary Lynn Laughlin as Chair of Ohio Motorists (AAA). All of these connections. That’s the gift of CLC — and it’s a gift that keeps giving.”

Sara Stashower (LC 2001)
Visiting Instructor, John Carroll University
Master Minder, clair de lune


David Sabol“…I really redefined my definition of networking. I wasn’t interested in professional development to get a better job, but I realized networking is about sharing your resources with others. I was a non-traditional member of Bridge Builders and I got so much out of it and was able to launch ‘Told’ Storytelling Salon.

In the two and a half years since the first Told show, we have hosted over 35 live shows and workshops where over 200 stories have been told. I have established and strengthened relationships with CBB classmates and other Clevelanders that I never would have met if I didn't take this chance. And now, more than three years since I started Bridge Builders, I'm still seeing shock waves reverberate through my personal, civic, and professional life.”

David Sabol (CBB 2014)
Mathematics Department Chair, Teacher, St. Ignatius High School


Margaret Bernstein“…I have found great support for my efforts in addressing the literacy crisis in Cleveland by encouraging families to make reading together a daily ritual. Fellow CLC alumni asked for a copy of my read-aloud storybook for fathers (“All In a Dad’s Day”), and one even sent me a picture of himself reading it to his children! At a class get-together last weekend, we collected donations for the Daily Dose of Reading nonprofit. Because of their encouragement and our work together, we are making a difference.”

Margaret Bernstein (LC 2016, CLI 2014)
Director of Advocacy & Community Initiatives, WKYC


Kelvie Tyus“… I met the most amazing, talented and impactful people anyone could hope to connect with, and many of them have become friends for life. CLC programs gave me the access to learn, serve and contribute in ways I would have never imagined.”

Kelvie Tyus (CBB 2011)
IT Supervisor, Sedgewick Claims Management Services, Inc.


John Zitzner“… I was able to start a school, and 10 years later we have 10 schools of quality serving 3,300 K-8 students.”

John Zitzner (LC 2006)
President, Friends of Breakthrough Schools



Laura Hudak“… I was inspired to completely change career directions. My Cleveland Bridge Builder experience led me to now a 12-year career at Team NEO, one of the region's important economic development organizations. I know I am able to have impact on a daily basis.”

Laura Hudak (CLC Board Member, LC 2014, CBB 2003)
Vice President, Finance & Administration, Team NEO



Luis Cabrera“… and my Cleveland Bridge Builders experience, I've been very mindful of how I can use my skills and talent to enhance and change my community.”

Luis Cabrera (CBB 2013)
ServiceNow Systems Administrator, Forest City Realty Trust, Inc.



Micki Byrnes“… I'm not a Cleveland native, so it was amazing to learn, connect and understand the legacy and potential of Northeast Ohio.”

Micki Byrnes (LC 2005, Civic Engagement Boot Camp 2012)
President & General Manager, WKYC



Tom Adler“… I was exposed to high-level leaders, which assisted me with nonprofit and community involvement. I have built friendships that have lasting effects.”

Tom Adler (LC 1978)
Advisor, PlayhouseSquare Real Estate Services



Laurence Trotter“… I am fulfilling my civic vision for an informed digital community. CBB has imbued me with the confidence and skill set to achieve what I know to be possible.”

Laurence Trotter (LC 2014)
Neighborhood Technology Coordinator, Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation



Catherine Timko“… I was immersed in relevant and timely issues facing our region and placed alongside people who are working together towards solutions. Seeing and understanding the region’s assets and potential was exceptionally instructive because most examples were the direct result of leadership in action. … There is clearly no other experience in the Cleveland area that provides this level of civic engagement and professional development. It is truly a life-changing experience.”

Catherine Timko (LC 2015)
Executive Director, Lake Erie Nature & Science Center


Dr. Sherrie Williams“… I have met so many wonderful, energetic, engaged and motivated people who are making Cleveland better.”

Dr. Sherrie Williams (LC 2016)
Director, Pulmonary Rehab, Smoking Cessation Programs, MetroHealth Medical Center



Kerry McCormack“… I was exposed to the critical elements of change in the community that no other program in Greater Cleveland could have provided. I was encouraged at a young age to critically think about the current and future plans for the region and the decisions being made to shape that vision.”

Kerry McCormack (LookUp 2005)
Cleveland City Council Member, Ward 3


Andy Passen“… I have met a host of community leaders with whom I have developed relationships that have resulted in expanding my network of local resources. These are individuals who readily take my calls and willingly give their time, advice and suggestions.”

Andy Passen (CLC Board Member)
Executive V.P.-Human Resources (Retired), Forest City Realty Trust


Margy Judd“… my eyes were opened to the rest of the city. The program helped me make connections in every sector, even in sectors that I had never thought of. Because of Bridge Builders, I think more like an entrepreneur. The program teaches you to think outside of yourself and improve the world that you live in.”

Margy Judd (LC2 Fellows 2015, LC 2007, CBB 2001)
President, Executive Arrangements, Inc.


Richard Konisiewicz“… I was reminded again and again what a great city of civic leaders we live in. Besides the expertise each presenter possessed, I was most impressed by their sincerity and passion to make Cleveland, and the region, a better place for all residents to flourish. In my own way, I want to be a contributor for the good of Cleveland too.”

Richard Konisiewicz (CLI 2015)
Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Ursuline College


Christine Fowler-Mack“… I feel as though I am finally connected to those in Cleveland who seek to make a difference and value the potential of diverse leaders. … This experience has been vital to my outlook on Cleveland!”

Christine Fowler-Mack (LC 2015)
Chief of Innovative Schools & Strategic Programs, Cleveland Metropolitan School District


Leo Hyland“… I have a better appreciation of our amazing community and its leaders. I love CLE and am very hopeful for its bright future.”

Leo Hyland (LC 2013, LC2 Fellows 2014)
President, Cleveland Central Catholic High School


Renee Harvey“… I better understand the value and importance of getting involved and I plan to do my part in moving Cleveland forward.”

Renee Harvey (LC 2015)
Vice President & Executive Director, Cleveland Browns Foundation


Hilary Lyon“... my passion was ignited to give back and support/build community. It helped build my confidence and has served as a catalyst for change and my desire to make an impact. It has reinforced my ability as a leader and given me valuable tools.”

Hillary Lyon (CBB 2015, CLC Board)
Director of Marketing, Richard Fleischman + Partners Architects


Ralph Dice“… my mind was opened to the varying views of others. I learned to love our city even more.”

Ralph Dise (LC 2003)
President, Dise & Company


Sophia Zupanc“… I fundamentally changed the way I viewed Cleveland. Rather than "The Mistake on the Lake," Cleveland became a city I love being from and one that I can't wait to return to after graduation. More importantly, my participation helped me develop the competence and confidence to become a change maker in Cleveland even as a young adult. Without the Leadership Center, I would have never realized my own potential to be a leader.”

Sophia Zupanc (iCLE 2016, LookUp 2014)
The Ohio State University (Class of 2019), Policy Analysis and Economics
Participant, New Leadership Ohio; Intern, G2G Consulting; Former Intern, Policy Matters Ohio


Carpenter Carrie"... I became a bigger cheerleader for Cleveland! I learned about ways to revitalize our city's neighborhoods."

Carrie Carpenter (LC 2009)
President and Executive Director, Gordon Square Arts District


Jazmine Long "... I was able to meet amazing leaders who've helped me make Cleveland home. Because of CLC I was able to launch the Cleveland Young Professional Minority Women’s Group.”

Jazmin Long (iCLE 2013)
Welcome Coordinator, Global Cleveland


Iyer Vijay"... I got a wonderful welcome and positive introduction to Cleveland. It made me feel proud of Cleveland, despite just moving from Pittsburgh. The program provided great perspective on the role of economic development and my organization, BioEnterprise, to someone coming from the corporate world. CLC has been a great resource for networking and community engagement since."

Vijay Iyer (CLI 2013)
Vice President, Business Development & Strategy, BioEnterprise


J. Michael Thomas"... I discovered our rich history and commitment to civic engagement, arts, health and culture. Because of that understanding, I realize that my efforts are really building on the great work of others who came before me. I must also invest in the next generation who will build on our work today."

J. Michael Thomson (LC 2014)
President, Eastern Campus, Cuyahoga Community College


Angelica Compton"... I learned so much about important issues in the region. This was helpful as a newcomer to the area. And because of CBB, I have met many dedicated people who are passionate about improving our community."

Angelica Compton (CLI 2010, CBB 2016)
Foundation & Communications Manager, Youth Challenge Sports


Laura Mimura" ... I have engaged in the community as a civic leader. The network I established 15 years ago has led to board appointments and leadership roles at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, America Scores and the CLC. CLC has served as a catalyst for personal and civic leadership development."

Laura Mimura (LC 2016, CBB 2002, CLC Board)
Vice President, KeyBank Corporate Communications


Mike LittleJohn" ... I discovered for myself what others had told me for years. I finally believed that I could be a part of the solution and not just an onlooker. CBB helped me get out of my own way, and take steps to become who it is I'm meant to be."

Mike Littlejohn (CBB 2010)
Accounts Specialist, Parker Hannifin Corporation


Andy Farver"... I strengthened my networking skills, articulated my personal brand, and increased my awareness and perspective of civic engagement opportunities in Northeast Ohio. On-Board Cleveland also helped me form new relationships with young professionals which have continued to grow, even after the conclusion of the program."

Andy Farver (On-Board 2015)
University Relations & College Recruiting Specialist, Westfield Group


Carrie Rosenfelt“... The biggest impact that CBB had is that it made me view myself as a leader. Because of my work in community development, I already had exposure to many civic assets, issues and stakeholders but somehow, I saw myself more as an observer and supporter and less as a leader. CBB ignited in me an idea that I too could be a leader and contribute through my ideas, actions and leadership.”

Carrie Rosenfelt (CBB 2013)
Executive Director, Women’s Business Center of Northern Ohio


David Abbott"... I learned that leadership does not come from the position you had; it comes from using whatever position, assets and resources you possess in strategic collaboration with others. Many of the most effective leaders are in smaller organizations. But they are really smart about leveraging assets by building coalitions."

Dave Abbott (LC 1989)
Executive Director, The George Gund Foundation


Michael Goldberg“... I met amazing students across Cleveland while a member of the first Look Up To Cleveland class. Those relationships have continued for almost 30 years!”

Michael Goldberg (LC 2007, LookUp 1987, CLC Board of Directors)
Managing Partner, Bridge Investment Fund LLC


Leanne Tang “... I was able to be the first in my family to attend college, through CLC’s Allan Krulak Scholarship. All the leadership skills and opportunities brought into my life through Look Up To Cleveland have driven me to stay in Cleveland not only for my education but for my entire life, and to give back to the individuals who believed in me when I did not believe in myself.”

Leanne Tang (LookUp 2014)
Freshman, John Carroll University
Early acceptance to Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine


Jose Feliciano, Jr.“... I think about how different I am because of my Bridge Builders experience. The whole point of my civic involvement today is that people don't have to leave here. They can stay in Cleveland and be successful. Before CBB, I didn't know how to approach people or connect and work on a common goal with others. I'd never done it before. Now I have an instant roadmap. When I meet someone new I can instantly find ways to work on common goals together.”

Jose Feliciano, Jr. (CBB 2008)
Business Analyst, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority


Rebecca Kopp"... I [was] introduced to some of the people and programs that have impacted my enduring civic engagement.  I am now committed to developing new leaders in the Cleveland community. 

Rebecca Kopp Levine (CBB 2012, CLC Leadership Council, CBB Advisory Committee)
Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP


Dr. William Lewis “... I am a better doctor. I know more about the people I treat and the neighborhoods they come from. I feel that I am a part of Cleveland rather than just being the place I work.”

Dr. William Lewis
(LC 2012, CLC Leadership Council President 2015)
Chief of Cardiology & Director, Heart and Vascular Center, MetroHealth Medical Center