Follow a Leader or Be One
By Marissa Pietrobono
This year, Leadership Orlando (LO) celebrates more than just an incredible 40-year anniversary. They are celebrating the 5,000 graduates of the program, the progressive ripple effect their community involvement has had on the seven-county Central Florida region and beyond, and the new heights of success the program has reached. Their leadership program remains the largest in America and is also one of the oldest. Breaking new ground when they started in 1975, thriving through economic upticks and downturns; and now, equipped with new curriculum and new regional assets to explore, they are continuing to grow, inspire and build leaders for the future.
In celebration of their outstanding 40 years, the program has come up with fantastic ways to celebrate their current and past alumni, offering specific class reunions, exciting excursions and Alumni Update Sessions. All of these events have reaped various networking benefits for the alumni and the program itself. Past graduates were able to reconnect with old friends while making new ones; alumni were able to share stories, exchange advice and information with one another. These events also made it possible for alumni contact information to be updated to the LO Program database, resulting in the growth of new branches of connection on the Leadership Orlando tree.
Keeping the Connections
A luncheon was held in January for all the class chairs from 1975 and forward, experiencing a great turnout. They challenged the many chairs that attended to get the class that they led together again for a reunion. Leadership Orlando gave them the rosters and they chose the place, date and time to set up their class reunion, which varied from simple activities such as grabbing coffee or a beverage after work, to catch up and discuss what their former classmates have been up to in their lives. After these reunions, photos were posted on the Leadership Orlando website, and stories were published about their reunion experience, recollecting the relationships they built, the fun they had and what they learned.
Another fun way LO commemorated its 40 year anniversary was by inviting past and current alumni to two fun and thrilling excursions that they were able to enjoy with their families. The first was a trip to the inaugural MLS soccer match for Orlando City Soccer Club where the LO spectators were offered a special seating area. Over 250 tickets were sold to alumni and their guests who attended the game back in March. The second daytrip included a collaboration with another four-decade celebration, the 40th season of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Attendees went to the regular season home opener in September, which featured first and second round NFL draft picks, the Bucs’ Jameis Winston (Florida State) and the Tennessee Titans’ Marcus Mariota (Oregon).
Leaders Leading Leaders
The creation of Leadership Orlando’s Alumni Update Sessions was an innovative addition geared to gather current and post grad alumni together to receive updates on the latest parts of the Leadership Orlando curriculum, gathering information on-site while visiting various regional assets. The sessions were offered for just $40 to honor the 40th Anniversary. The first update was held in May where alumni bussed over to visit Port Canaveral to learn about its multi-million dollar expansion plans while also receiving a tour of the harbor from the water, and ending the day with a celebratory lunch. In August, alumni visited and received updates on the new VA Medical Center at the Medical City at Lake Nona. In November, alumni took a trip to Polk County to showcase Florida Polytechnic University, LEGOLAND Florida Resort and the Winter Haven Logistics Center.
Future Leadership Orlando participants may enroll when the time is right for them. “There is no selection process for the inclusive Leadership Orlando program. Who are we to determine future leaders? Anyone can be a leader, and therefore anyone can enroll,” said President of Leadership Orlando Ruth Mustian. Over the decades, Leadership Orlando has had the privilege to count many high-caliber graduates and chairs among their ranks, and continue to do so. They eagerly announced the participation of three well-respected leaders in the community to join their 2015-2016 leadership team as chairs. Those leaders include Orlando City Soccer Club President Phil Rawlins for class of ‘90, Holland & Knight LLP Partner Min Cho for class of ‘91, and Engineering & Computer Simulations, Inc. President Waymon Armstrong for class of ‘92.
Many past program members and chairs continue to represent as well as participate in the program today, appreciative of the skills and knowledge they acquired, as well as the connections and friendships made during their enrollment. They continue to exemplify the mission of Leadership Orlando, going on to become role models in various regions and professions, becoming elected officials, classroom teachers, law enforcement officials, influential CEOs and more. Their efforts to better serve the Central Florida region have not gone unnoticed as they continue to positively influence and contribute to their businesses, organizations, and communities and actively encourage other established and emerging leaders to do the same.