Who am I? Where am I going? How will I get there? Practically everyone experiences these thoughts at some point in their lives. The Center for Leadership Development (CLD) is guiding Indianapolis Public Schools students on their journey toward confidently addressing these questions and planning for a bright future.


The Self-Discovery/Career Exploration Project (SDCE), one of many programs offered by the CLD, has helped hundreds of students expand their horizons and prepare for life after high school. The 13-week curriculum covers a variety of skills and topics, including effective communication and presentation skills, assertiveness training, college goals and study techniques.


“At CLD, we encourage our students to study a minimum two hours a night as a baseline, that’s outside of homework,” explained Yalonda Brown, CLD Program Coordinator.


Before students graduate, they’re required to give a career goal presentation, in which they describe their plan for reaching their professional aspirations. For example, if a student wishes to become a cardiologist, he or she must describe the educational requirements, the projected outlook for that career and the steps it will take to get there.


“Our goal is that students walk away feeling better prepared,” said Yalonda. “We want them to feel equipped with the tools necessary to succeed with whatever their post-secondary plan is. Of course, we absolutely promote college.”


Program facilitators push students to plan. Clearly, their approach is working. Since the program’s inception in 1977, more than 10,000 students have graduated, including Aaliyah C. who is a senior at Shortridge High School, an IB World School.


“They teach you ‘these are your strengths and these are your weaknesses,’” explained Aaliyah. “This is what you can do with your strengths, and this is what you can do with your weaknesses to turn them into strengths.”


Once students like Aaliyah graduate from the SDCE project, they are encouraged to register for other enriching programs such as the college prep course or the SAT course. For those with an interest in medicine, the Rawls Scholars Medicine Initiative provides exposure to the Eskenazi Health Trauma Center where participants can interact with medical students and physicians.


For the business-minded crowd, the Business Orientation Project unites students with minority business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals through CLD’s partnership with IU Kelley School of Business. Participants learn all about different topics including public speaking, contract review and personal branding.


“I learned a lot about how to be professional,” recalled Aaliyah. “It was recommended to make professional business cards. I don’t have a business. I’m a student, so I call them my student cards. I made them professionally, and when I go to meetings or luncheons I pass them out. They’re right. It helps set you apart from the competition. It makes you look better; it makes you look like you’re ready.”


“We want them to be better communicators,” said Yalonda. “We want them to feel transformed for thinking differently about their value system. We teach our students that what they value, they will do!”


IPS is proud to have students enrolled in CLD programming. Last year, 242 Indianapolis area schools were served. IPS schools accounted for approximately 25 percent last year, with six of our students receiving CLD scholarships totaling $277,400.  Recipients of this year’s scholarships, which are funded by 24 college/university partners, will be announced at the Minority Achievers Awards & Scholarship Gala on March 24.


CLD provides education to students long before high school. Registration is underway for the Jr. Self-Discovery/Career Exploration, Precious Miss  and Project MR (Male Responsibility).


CLD doesn’t just provide services to students. It also works with our Parent Involvement Educators in our schools to educate families about free workshops regarding topics such as financial aid and special education.


We’d like to extend a big THANK YOU to CLD, an outstanding, longtime community partner!