10 locals participate in top Harvard program for leaders—why it’s important

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Birmingham participants in the Harvard Young American Leaders Program
Birmingham YALP participants (L-R) Mashonda Taylor, Anil Chadha and Staci Brooks. Photos via participants

Birmingham metro area leaders constantly impress us with their innovation and leadership. This year, 10 locals participated in the Harvard Young American Leaders Program. Check out what this means for The Magic City.

So, what’s the Young American Leaders Program?

Downtown Birmingham
Downtown Birmingham. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

Harvard’s Young American Leaders Program (YALP) launched in 2015 and brings together 10 leaders from 14 cities across America to participate in an intense leadership experience. Each participant collaborates on solutions for specific issues in their cities. Along with Birmingham, participating cities include Nashville, Detroit, San Antonio and more.

Meet the 10 Birmingham participants of Young American Leaders Program

  • Emily Wykle - Birmingham Young American Leaders Program
  • Ford Wiles - Birmingham Young American Leaders Program
  • Staci Brooks - Birmingham Young American Leaders Program
  • Rachel Harmon - Birmingham Young American Leaders Program
  • Miller - Birmingham Young American Leaders Program
  • Mashonda Taylor - Birmingham Young American Leaders Program
  • Mark Martin
  • LaRhonda Magras
  • Jay Eichelberger
  • Anil Chadha

In the program, 130 YALP participants work with Harvard Business School professors to discuss how public-private collaboration can improve target issues, such as workforce and economic development.

“The Birmingham YALP cohort, past and present, is such a passionate, committed and smart group of individuals engaged in many projects to make Birmingham a better place for all.”

Staci Brown Brooks, Participant, Birmingham YALP

The Birmingham participants represent a wide range of industries, from economic development to education. Thanks to their variety of professional and personal experiences, their discussions included different approaches to problems.

Check out the 10 Birmingham-area participants:

“Our group had a lot of discussions on two primary topics: workforce diversity and equity, and COVID-19 recovery and health risk-factor reduction for the virus. Those two topics were very much top of mind and where many of us hope to be impactful.”

Staci Brown Brooks, Participant, Birmingham YALP

What does this mean for Birmingham?

Downtown Birmingham
City views. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

This is Birmingham’s third year participating in the program and the first time the program was virtual.The program allows participants to do a deep dive into important topics and collaborate on potential solutions.

“Our time together, and with the 120 other leaders from across the nation, was a deep dive into: possibilities for post-COVID workforce recovery; learning about the history and impact of systemic racism; more than one passionate debate on what makes a city or a project “successful”; a vigorous discussion to reimagine how policing could evolve; and an opportunity to directly engage two current US mayors —Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and St. Paul, Minnesota Mayor Melvin Carter —who are serving their constituencies and simultaneously considering the future of their cities on a daily basis.”

Staci Brown Brooks, Participant, Birmingham YALP

“People are Birmingham’s greatest resource.”

Birmingham’s participation in the Young American Leaders Program is a great opportunity for these leaders to take their feedback back to their own communities.

“It was incredibly valuable to see how other cities tackle a wide range of similar issues, but it was even more insightful to discuss and dissect those strategies with people directly involved. This was a powerful reminder that Birmingham is a special place filled with extremely talented people, and better outcomes are always possible when we are intentional in making them happen.”

Ford Wiles, Participant,Birmingham YALP

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Cecilia Wood
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