By Katherine Cecala, Class 12
What I remember most from the program is the long bus tour. I was aware of Scottsdale but did not realize how incredibly diverse this community is. There are areas of great wealth but also lower income areas where daily challenges exist — getting enough food or clothing for example. Without Scottsdale Leadership I would not have been acquainted with this community and its issues and concerns.
The Core Program provided an excellent overview that honed my skills and abilities to be a better civic leader and helped me be a more effective change leader because I had an in-depth knowledge of the various issues (economic, political, etc.) facing this community.
I think we can all agree that Scottsdale Leadership provides us with connections. We can certainly grow a personal and professional network based on our class experience, but the connection goes so much deeper. It is about connecting those we know from Scottsdale Leadership with others in the community. As an example, I met an engineer who was also in Class 12 with me. She wanted to learn about health care and related to me because my undergraduate degree is in engineering. At the time I was the Chair of Systems and Procedures at Mayo Clinic and I offered her a pro-bono position at the Clinic working with me so she could gain first-hand knowledge of the health care field. I would not have had that connection without my participation the Core Program.
Scottsdale Leadership also confirmed my commitment to the community. I have always been involved, but the skills I learned in Scottsdale Leadership helped me be not only a better informed citizen but one who was totally committed to making a difference.
I currently serve on a number of boards including the Arizona Humane Society where I chair the Compassion with Fashion luncheon. Additionally, I serve as treasurer of the Children’s Museum of Phoenix board.
One of the boards I am most excited about is Vista College Prep where I also serve as treasurer. This school has a 97% free and reduced lunch program. We are making a huge difference in the lives of these young students who score at the lowest level – even below the level that is measured, so they are at an incredible disadvantage. Some of these students have never held a book in their hands, do not know how to write or what the names of colors are. We help them gain by 1 ½ years each year they are with us. It is an absolutely amazing program and is considered one of the best charter schools in the state.
In my professional career and volunteer work I am drawn to organizations that are mission driven. Earlier in my career I also worked in health care and found that passion of working in the non-profit arena. Then I worked at a law firm (most people are not aware that I am an attorney as well), but there was no passion in that field for me which is why I gravitated back to the non-profit sector. I decided this was my purpose in life and Scottsdale Leadership certainly enforced that for me as well.
Katherine Cecala is President of Junior Achievement of Arizona. Prior to this position, Katherine spent eight years as the COO of Valley of the Sun United Way. She also teaches non-profit management and fundraising at the Lodestar School at Arizona State University. She received the 2004 Hodges Alumni Achievement Award.