On November 9, 2023, 28 community members completed the Academy for Community Leadership with presentations and a celebratory breakfast at Horizon Convention Center.

This was the 69th cohort to go through this unique, 10-week program offered by the Greater Muncie Chamber of Commerce and Ball State’s Office of Community Engagement.

Our own Suzie Jones co-leads the ACL each year with Brenda Brumfield of the Chamber.

The program began in 1976 as a way to promote our community while providing valuable networking opportunities for participants.

Each week, the cohort met at a different Muncie/Delaware County location where they learned from local experts about a variety of topics including Muncie history; local government and politics; the role of religion in the community; community planning perspectives; business and economic perspectives; social, cultural, and artistic perspectives, and health services in the community.

Academy participants also split into groups and participated in volunteer opportunities at local nonprofits – Habitat for Humanity, Blood-N-Fire, Classroom Connections, Second Harvest and Red-Tail Land Conservancy.

As part of the breakfast, groups gave presentations about their volunteer experiences.

The Classroom Connections group, dressed in gear representing their high schools, even offered a cheer, led by group member and “cheerleader” Missy Teats. Group member Tommy Turner was visibly emotional as he talked about how Classroom Connections benefits teachers and students.

“And we benefit greatly from [ACL],” Stacy Wheeler, executive director of Classroom Connections, said. “ACL participants have become board members, sponsors and donors at Classroom Connections.”

Wheeler was at the breakfast to support “her team” during the breakfast.

At Blood-N-Fire, the volunteers baked 870 cookies for the weekly community meetings there, according to Weldon Trolinder.

Craig Overholt, who volunteered with his group at Second Harvest, said he has driven by that location for years and was “thankful for the opportunity to see what happens there.”

Jeri McCorkle, a member of the OCE team as the manager of the Training, Resource, and Advocacy Connector (TRAC) program for early care and learning providers, volunteered with her group at Habitat for Humanity.

“They give power tools to people who have never used them before and it’s great!” she said with a laugh.

But on a more serious note, she added that, “it’s about building of the person as well as building of the houses.”

At the end of the breakfast, each member of the cohort was given a certificate of completion. After receiving her certificate Sharan Abdullah said she has been in this community a long time and wished she knew about all the “amazing things” going on in this community – that she learned about through ACL – sooner.

Brenda Brumfield shared some of the feedback received from the ACL cohort in their final reports, including “I have been inspired” and “I want to do more.”

Suzie Jones emphasized the “special bonds that you will take with you when you leave this room” and encouraged everyone to keep in touch. And keep giving back to their community.

Look for information about the next ACL opportunity in 2024.