Alumni spotlight: Elise Yablonsky

Elise Yablonsky (CBB 2014)
Planning Director, University Circle Inc.

Why did you get involved with CLC?
It was recommended to me by my then supervisor as a strong personal, professional, and civic growth opportunity.

What were you hoping to get out of it?
At the time, I had recently moved back to Cleveland after spending the last five years working in Columbus. I had great personal contacts in the City because it was my hometown but I craved a stronger professional network and also wanted to better understand the civic landscape.

How was your program experience?
I am so grateful for my program experience. Not only did it push me personally and professionally, I learned so much about the civic landscape of Cleveland and made lifelong friends.

What have you accomplished or helped others to accomplish since your CLC experience?
I’ve accomplished a couple of major projects since the program, including CircleWalk, a districtwide interpretive program for University Circle, and the Cozad-Bates House Interpretive Center, an indoor-outdoor interpretive space that adaptively reuses the only remaining pre-Civil War homesite in University Circle to honor the legacy of the freedom seekers and anti-slavery activists in the area.

What are you proud of?
I’m most proud of is how we engaged partners. CircleWalk, for example, relied on the support of 30+ institutional stakeholders to help collect and share stories from over 200 years of history in University Circle. For the Cozad-Bates House Interpretive Center, we established a community advisory committee of community activists, educators, and historians, to guide development of the Interpretive Center’s content and educational curriculum.

How did CLC contribute to that success?
The program helped me to feel more confident as a leader and convener, both helping me to grow my strengths but also be better aware of and manage my weaknesses.

How has your CLC experience influenced you?
I really appreciated the diversity and inclusion program, as this was my first full-day training on that topic. Since then, I have made diversity and inclusion education and activism a priority both professionally and personally.

How have you changed since then as it relates to the community?
My professional career goals have always been driven by working toward community betterment. The program helped raise awareness of the myriad of ways that I could have an impact both through my profession and in my personal time.

How did it change anything about how you do or how you view your job, your profession, or Greater Cleveland?
The program helped me to better understand my professional goals and passions by forcing me to name them. I realized that greenspace activation and access had become one of my core civic passions, and ultimately, I took a new position during the program that would allow me to accomplish more in that space.

What were your relationships and collaborations like before CLC, and since then?
My network has grown exponentially since participating in Cleveland Bridge Builders, both through direct connections in my program year and broader connections built with other CLC alumni and members.

Have you kept in touch with classmates or alumni of other CLC programs?
I have stayed in touch with many of my Bridge Builders classmates and they serve as a continual source of support and inspiration.

Have you participated in any CLC events since your class year?
Yes, I try to prioritize staying engaged with CLC both to maintain my connections with fellow alumni and other members and also stay informed and engaged. I’ve volunteered with a variety of programs, attended social networking events, and recently attended many of the lunch series events during the pandemic.