The mission of 21st Century Leaders is to inspire the next generation of Georgia leaders by empowering high school students with essential business and community leadership skills through programs connecting a diverse group of enthusiastic peers and passionate professionals.
21st Century Leaders (21CL) was established in 1991 by a group of executives in response to two alarming trends: 1) a lack of people prepared to accept leadership roles, and 2) the difficulty of employees in crossing class and racial barriers to work together. The group realized the key to reversing these trends is the next generation; that is, providing young people with the training, guidance and encouragement necessary to enter college and the workforce with a highly developed set of leadership skills.
21st Century Leaders launched its first one-week summer program in the summer of 1991 with 31 students from eight high schools. Since that time almost 10,000 young people have been engaged in the leadership programs of 21st Century Leaders. Through a partnership with the Georgia Board of Regents, the summer program grew to multiple collegiate campuses and multiple “classes” of high school youth in 1996. The first co-branding of one of its programs, Leadership Unplugged: A CNN Experience began in 2006.
The key elements of a 21st Century Leaders program are the engagement of business leaders and professionals as volunteers, the retooling of high-level corporate leadership training programs for work with young people and an unyielding commitment to the power of diversity. Throughout its history, 21st Century Leaders has connected thousands of Georgia youth from over 200 high schools with thousands of volunteers from the business and professional community; all for one purpose – to prepare the next generation of leaders to lead our businesses and our communities.