Hamilton County Leadership Academy class of 2016 graduates

From left, Jeff Bragg of Noblesville schools, Brittany Heidenrich of American Structurepoint and Jeremy Dixon of Meyer-Najem present the winners of the HAND Student Design Challenge, their service project along with other HCLA participants. (Photo by Adam Aasen)

From left, Jeff Bragg of Noblesville schools, Brittany Heidenrich
of American Structurepoint and Jeremy Dixon of Meyer-Najem present the winners of the HAND Student Design Challenge, their service project along with other HCLA participants. (Photo by Adam Aasen)

The Hamilton County Leadership Academy, a nonprofit organization that trains local leaders about the inner workings of the county, graduated its 2016 class on June 2.

Residents and employees in Carmel, Noblesville, Fishers, Westfield and Atlanta participated in the 10-month course which focused on different aspects of the county each month, such as business, education, local government, state government, quality of life, the justice system and more.

HCLA also hosted a special luncheon on June 9 to celebrate its 25th anniversary,

Applications for the 2017 class are due by June 30 at hcla.net.

The 2016 graduates were required to split up into groups and create service projects that could benefit people in the county. The projects included:

HAND Student Design Challenge — This group decided to tackle the issue of a lack of affordable housing in Hamilton County. They cited statistics that 15,000 people live in poverty in the county and only 1.7 percent of all housing units in the county were developed for low-income housing. Only 2 percent of all homes built in the last five years fall in the category of affordable housing.

They grouped up with Hamilton County Area Neighborhood Development to help create awareness of the organization and raise funds. These students did that by helping create a car window decal that could be sold to help raise money for the organization. To create the decal, they helped organize a design contest where local high school students would use their art or graphic design skills to create the logo for the decal. The first place winner received $500 and second place received $200 and third received $100. The winners were honored at HAND’s annual breakfast.

Hamilton County Technology Exchange — Another group decided access to technology is something that holds back lower income individuals. Access to free laptop computers could enable a working parent to take online courses to further one’s education or the laptop could be used to apply for jobs or help children with their homework.

The group partnered with nine local nonprofit organizations, such as the Boys & Girls Club, Prime Life Achievement and others, to distribute free laptops donated by businesses that no longer need them. Donors included Beck’s Hybrids, Stanley Security, GadellNet, Enviroforensics and Community Health Network. The goal was to collect 50 laptops but the group ended up collecting only 34 since some donations didn’t meet the technical requirements. Stanley Security offered to pay $75 each for licenses for Microsoft Office for the computers.

Countywide City Council Summit — One group decided it wanted to bring together the city councilors of all of the cities in Hamilton County so they could share ideas and discuss topics of mutual interest between them. The event was held on March 5 at Table at Market District and John Krauss, IUPUI Law and SPEA professor, served as the moderator. The students were able to secure funding from Ice Miller as a sponsor to help book the venue and pay for the speaker. Councilors from Fishers, Westfield, Noblesville, Arcadia and Sheridan were in attendance. A planning meeting prevented Carmel City Councilor members from attending due to the scheduling conflict. Westfield Mayor Andy Cook was in attendance as well.

Hamilton County Academy for Nonprofit Excellence — Another group decided that local nonprofits in Hamilton County often struggle to provide training for their employees since nonprofit budgets are so tight. The group partnered with local companies, asking them to donate training hours for such topics as accounting, computer skills and more. They set up a website at hcane.org and they have commitments scheduled for 2017 to help carry out the mission. Some topics might include strategic development and how to hold a proper board meeting.

#NotOK Teen Dating Violence Event — One group tackled the growing topic of domestic violence in Hamilton County. They narrowed their focus to teen dating violence and began an awareness campaign to let people know that one in three teen girls will be abused by a dating partner. They filmed a professional video, set up a Web site and Facebook page and held an event at Carmel City Hall on March 29 where Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard was a speaker. The event attracted hundreds of attendees, including city councilors, county commissioners, police officers and high school students. Administrators at Carmel schools are now discussing how to turn this campaign into a student-led club at the middle and/or high school levels.

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