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Obama Foundation Picks Hartford For Leadership Training Initiative

Charles Rex Arbogast
Associated Press
Former President Barack Obama addresses a crowd during the first session of the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago on Oct. 31, 2017.

The Obama Foundation is recruiting 100 young people in Hartford to be part of a six-month training program to develop the next wave of community leaders in Connecticut’s capital city.

Since leaving office, former President Barack Obama has talked about engaging the younger generation to “take up the baton.” As part of his foundation’s Community Leadership Corps program, people ages 18 to 25 who are picked for the initiative get tasked with a community project in their city — and in the process, get free skills training in project management, leadership, design thinking and community organizing.

The Community Leadership Corps started last year in Phoenix, Ariz., Columbia, S.C., and Chicago, where the Obama Foundation has its headquarters. For the second round, the training program is returning to Chicago and coming to Hartford for the first time.

In a statement introducing the program to Hartford, Obama Foundation CEO David Simas said the goal is to bring together budding leaders and “give them skills to take their passion and put it into action.”

While the foundation is hiring “success coaches” in Hartford to help lead the program, members of the Community Leadership Corps are unpaid. The program will start with a kickoff event this June in Hartford. Corps members then receive a few in-person trainings, online coaching and other aid toward completing a team project. The final Hartford training is expected in November.

Officials with the Obama Foundation said they picked Hartford, in part, because of the size of its younger population. About 40 percent of Hartford residents are under age 25, according to U.S. Census data estimates. And the city’s already home to a lot of youth-oriented organizations that can steer members to the leadership corps.

On its website, the foundation said last year’s corps members in Phoenix, Columbia and Chicago “represented a variety of racial and ethnic identities, as well as socioeconomic and educational backgrounds, gender identities, and sexual orientations. We believe that bringing people together from diverse perspectives has the greatest potential for creating change.”

People in Hartford and Chicago have until March 24 to apply for this year’s program. Organizers said a hundred people in each city will be chosen.

Vanessa de la Torre is executive editor of the New England News Collaborative, a regional hub of nine public media stations producing news and in-depth storytelling throughout New England. Previously, Vanessa was a reporter for Connecticut Public and the public radio collaborative Sharing America, covering issues of race, identity and culture. Before joining the public media world, Vanessa wrote for newspapers such as the Hartford Courant, where her investigative storytelling on Hartford education won regional and national awards. She also was part of the Courant team that was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting. Vanessa grew up in El Centro, Calif., a desert town near the U.S.-Mexico border, and is a graduate of Princeton University. She received her master's degree from Stanford University’s Graduate Program in Journalism.

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