As I’ve been making the introductory rounds at various community events, I often find a lot of curiosity about Leadership Oakland and what makes it so special. To be honest, it’s difficult for me to put into words without feeling like a salesperson that’s a bit too overzealous to be believable. As a proud graduate of last year’s class, LOXXV, LO was so much more than the knowledge and contacts gained through the program. There’s a bond, camaraderie and commitment that transcends far beyond the graduation ceremony.

I don’t know about you but lately it’s easier to sound like a curmudgeon with sentiments of “What is this world coming to?” instead of a beacon of hope. It’s then that LO comes through with stories that show me why it is so special. I’d like to share a couple with you.

Recently, we received an email from an LO alumni facing a medical crisis. She was overwhelmed, absorbing the shock of her diagnosis and needing to make decisions quickly. She turned to LO for help. It isn’t the type of request one expects a leadership development organization to be able to answer. But LO isn’t your typical organization. We shared her story with our more than 1,100 alumni. Within minutes, the email responses began to pour in. Some had recommendations for specialists to treat her condition; others shared the names of survivors to encourage her; still others offered prayers and thoughts of strength. No one knew her name; they just knew someone needed help and they took time out of their busy day and overloaded inbox to quickly respond.

Anyone who’s been through the LO Cornerstone Program claims their class is “The Best Class … Ever!” Well, this year’s class, LOXXVI, has decided they will be “The Best Class … Period.” And they are determined to live up to that claim through their Day of Service project, which will impact a Pontiac neighborhood for years to come. They have decided to construct a greenhouse to supply fresh vegetables to the community. Despite some obstacles – including a fire in the location where they were scheduled to start the seedlings – and an ambitious fundraising goal, the dogged determination of this class to persevere is inspiring.

What makes LO so special? It’s the smart, kind, committed people who choose to go through the program to better themselves and their communities – the people who stay involved long after graduation because they know that while they may never lead a country (although many of them probably could!) they can help change part of our world for the better.

To learn more about Leadership Oakland, come to Taste of LO on March 24. Register at

To learn more or to support the LOXXVI Day of Service project, click here